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Henderson, Pvt. Joseph P.

Unlike many other stories on this website, the story of finding Pvt. Joseph Patrick Henderson took on its own life. For the first seven years of the project, we could not confirm that, as indicated in 1st Lt. Jacques Merrifield’s final report on the 192nd Tank Battalion, a Pvt. Henderson was a member of the 192nd. It was in 2006, that we received our first confirmation that “Mule” Henderson, as he was called, had been a member of the battalion. A couple of years later, we received an interview that Field Reed, a Kentucky National Guardsman, had given. In the interview, Reed told how he and “Mule” Henderson delivered supplies to the tanks. Reed believed that Henderson was from Georgia or another southern state. So the search for Pvt. Henderson continued.

We worked under the assumption that he was from the South. On several occasions, we thought that we had found Pvt. Henderson only to find that we were wrong and that the man was a member of another unit. On one occasion, we actually had found him, but because of the assumption that he was from the South, we dismissed our finding as wrong. The mystery of who Pvt. Henderson was continued to haunt us.

Thanks to Tuller Merrifield, the daughter of Jacques Merrifield, the mystery of “who was Pvt. Henderson” was solved. Tuller sent us her father’s journal which he had compiled while he was a Prisoner of War. It was from this journal that the final U.S. Army report on the 192nd Tank Battalion was written. In the journal, Merrifield had written that Pvt. Henderson had originally been a member of the 31st Infantry. We knew that the situation on Bataan was “fluid” so Henderson becoming a member of the tank battalion was a possibility. Merrifield also indicated that Henderson died on Palawan Island,

With this information, we were able to search the Palawan Massacre Roster and found that there were two Hendersons who had been killed by the Japanese on the island. The roster indicated that one of the Hendersons was a U.S. Marine, while the other Henderson had no unit indicated in his file. So, we now believed that Pvt. Joseph P. Henderson was “Mule” Henderson of the 192nd.

We next checked the NARA POW online files and found additional information on Pvt. Joseph P. Henderson. Karl Rowe had provided NARA with a roster of the members of the 31st Infantry, but Pvt. Joseph P. Henderson was not listed on the roster. In addition, the burial card from Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery indicated that Joseph P. Henderson was a tank battalion member. We had finally found Pvt. Mule Henderson.

Pvt. Joseph P. Henderson was the son of Mrs. Emma Henderson, was born in California on February 8, 1916, and lived at 1247 West 109th Street in Los Angeles with his mother and brother, Robert. He completed three years of high school before enlisting in the Army. In 1940, Joseph was stationed at the Presidio, Monterey County, California, as a member of E Company, 11th Cavalry. From August 4 to 29, 1940, the unit took part in maneuvers at Fort Lewis, Washington. He reenlisted at Fort Riley, Kansas, on September 11, 1941, and it appears he was assigned to the 31st Infantry and sent to the Philippine Islands.

During the Battle of Bataan, Joseph joined the 192nd Tank Battalion from the 31st Infantry Regiment. For another unknown reason, he was put in B Company. How and why he did this is not known. He was nicknamed “Mule” by the other members of the 192nd. As indicated earlier, he supplied the tank crews with food, gasoline, and ammunition.

According to Field Reed, it was while attempting to deliver supplies to A Company, that Mule and he witnessed the death of Capt. Walter Write near Urdaneta on December 24, 1941. According to Reed, when they found the tanks, Write was lying on the back of a tank. He had been mortally wounded from a landmine exploding in his hands while he was planting it.

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 the river. As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening. They successfully crossed 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 27.

The tankers were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th. On December 31st, the tanks were stationed on both sides of the Calumpit Bridge when they received conflicting orders, from Gen. MacArthur’s chief of staff, about whose command they were under and to withdraw from the bridge. The defenders were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5 which would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan. General Wainwright was unaware of the situation. Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River, and about half the defenders withdrew. 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.

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 the river. As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening. They successfully crossed the river in the Bayambang Province. One tank platoon went through the town of Gapan. After they were through the town, they were informed it had been held by the Japanese. They could never figure out why the Japanese had not fired on them. 

A Company lost its commander, Capt. Walter Write, on December 26th. According to the story, he saw Sergeant Owen Sandmire placing landmines in the road. The mines were made by Philippine Ordnance from cigar boxes with dynamite. Write took a mine away from Sandmire and told them it looked funny. As he was placing it, it exploded in his hands. Before he died, he asked that roses be placed on his grave, but since there were no roses, the men placed a native red flower on his grave. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th when the 192nd and part of the 194th fell back to form a new defensive line. From there they fell back to the south bank of the BanBan River which they were supposed to hold for as long as possible. The tanks were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th serving as a rear guard against the Japanese.

The tanks were near Santo Tomas on the 28th and were spread out from east to west and were being bombed and shelled. A few minor injuries were reported. They were ordered to fall back to San Isidro which was located south of Cabanatuan where they were shelled again resulting in one tank being flipped onto its side when a shell landed near it. The crew was taken to a field hospital with minor injuries. The tank was put in an upright position and manned by another crew. It was noted that the tank crews were physically in poor condition from lack of sleep, lack of food, and constantly being on alert.

While engaged in battle with the Japanese on the 29th, a B Co. tank was disabled when it hit a landmine and lost one of its tracks. Unable to move, the tank was cut off from its support troops during the battle. Sgt. Ray Mason, Sgt. Walter Mahr, Pvt. Quincey Humphries and Pvt. LD Marrs were ordered out of their tank by the Japanese. When they got out of the tank, they expected to be taken, prisoners. Instead, they were ordered to run by the Japanese. As they ran, all four men were machine-gunned. Mason was killed, Humphries was never seen again, and Marrs was taken prisoner. Only Mahr managed to reach American lines.

The night of the 29th, A Company’s 2nd and 3rd platoons were at Zaeagosa and bivouacked for the night on both sides of a road. A noise was heard and the sentries woke up the tank crews. The tankers watched a Japanese bicycle battalion of 100 to 300 men come riding down the road and into their bivouac. The tankers opened up with everything they had. When they ceased fire, they had wiped out the entire battalion. When they were ordered to withdraw, the tanks went over the bodies.

It was at this time that a platoon of B Company tanks found itself on a road holding up the Japanese advance. without knowing it, five tanks took a narrow road that led to the Japanese lines. The drivers of the tanks stayed close enough so that they could see the tank in front of their tank when a shell exploded behind one of the tanks. The tanks were trapped since there was no room for them to turn around. At Ft. Knox, they were taught that if you are lost, or trapped, to double your speed. The tanks hurdled down the road running through gun nests. a roadblock, and running down Japanese soldiers. The tanks turned around, ran through the Japanese positions again, and escaped.

The next morning, December 30th, 2nd Lt. William Read’s, A Co., 192nd, tank platoon was serving as a rearguard and was in a dry rice paddy when it came under enemy fire by Japanese mortars. Read was riding in a tank when one of the enemy rounds hit one of its tracks knocking it out. After escaping the tank, Read stood in front of it and attempted to free the crew. A second round hit the tank, directly below where he was standing blowing off his legs at the knees and leaving him mortally wounded. The other members of his crew carried Read from the tank and laid him under a bridge. Read would not allow himself to be evacuated since there were other wounded soldiers. He insisted that these men be taken first. He would die in the arms of Pvt. Ray Underwood as the Japanese overran the area.

The Japanese had broken through two Philippine Divisions holding Route 5 and C Company was ordered to Baluiag to stop the advance so that the remaining forces could withdraw. On the morning of December 31st, 1st Lt. William Gentry, commanding officer of a platoon of C Company tanks, sent out reconnaissance patrols north of the town of Baluiag. The patrols ran into Japanese patrols, which told the Americans that the Japanese were on their way. Knowing that the railroad bridge was the only way to cross the river into the town, Gentry set up his defenses in view of the bridge and the rice patty it crossed. One platoon of tanks under the command of 2nd Lt. Marshall Kennady was to the southeast of the bridge, while Gentry’s tanks were to the south of the bridge hidden in huts in the barrio. The third platoon commanded by Capt Harold Collins was to the south on the road leading out of Baluiag, and 2nd Lt. Everett Preston had been sent south to find a bridge to cross to attack the Japanese from behind.

Early on the morning of the 31st, the Japanese began moving troops across the bridge. The engineers came next and put down planking for tanks. A little before noon Japanese tanks began crossing the bridge. Later that day, the Japanese assembled a large number of troops in the rice field on the northern edge of the town.

Major John Morley, of the Provisional Tank Group, came riding in his jeep into Baluiag. He stopped in front of a hut and was spotted by the Japanese who had lookouts on the town’s church steeple. The guard became very excited so Morley, not wanting to give away the tanks’ positions, got into his jeep and drove off. Gentry had told Morley that his tanks would hold their fire until he was safely out of the village. When Gentry felt the Morley was out of danger, he ordered his tanks to open up on the Japanese tanks at the end of the bridge. The tanks then came smashing through the huts’ walls and drove the Japanese in the direction of Lt. Marshall Kennady’s tanks. Kennady had been radioed and was waiting. Kennady held his fire until the Japanese were in view of his platoon and then joined in the hunt. The Americans chased the tanks up and down the streets of the village, through buildings and under them. By the time C Company was ordered to disengage from the enemy, they had knocked out at least eight enemy tanks.

C Company withdrew to Calumpit Bridge after receiving orders from Provisional Tank Group. When they reached the bridge, they discovered it had been blown. Finding a crossing the tankers made it to the south side of the river. Knowing that the Japanese were close behind, the Americans took their positions in a harvested rice field and aimed their guns to fire a tracer shell through the harvested rice. This would cause the rice to ignite which would light the enemy troops. The tanks were about 100 yards apart. The Japanese crossing the river knew that the Americans were there because the tankers shouted at each other to make the Japanese believe troops were in front of them. The Japanese were within a few yards of the tanks when the tanks opened fire which caused the rice stacks to catch fire. The fighting was such a rout that the tankers were using a 37 mm shell to kill one Japanese soldier.

The tank company was next sent to the Barrio of Porac to aid the Philippine Army which was having trouble with Japanese artillery fire. From a Filipino lieutenant, they learned where the guns were located and attacked destroying three of the guns and chasing the Japanese destroying trucks, and killing the infantry. The tanks were ordered to fall back to San Fernando and were refueled and received ammunition. 

The defenders were ordered to withdraw on the 25th to a new line known as the Pilar-Begac Line. The tanks were given the job of covering the withdrawal with the 192nd covering the withdrawing troops in the Aubucay area and the 194th covering the troops in the Hacienda area. At 6:00 PM the withdrawal started over the only two roads out of the area which quickly became blocked, and the Japanese could have wiped out the troops but did not take advantage of the situation.

The tankers stated that because of the jungle canopy, the nights on Bataan were so dark that the tankers could not see after dark. It was at night that the Japanese liked to attack. When the attacks came, if the tankers were lucky they were able to use their tanks’ machine guns on them. They could not use the turret machine guns since they could not be aimed at the ground as the Japanese got close to the tanks. If the tank commander had attempted to use his pistol standing in the turret, he was an easy target, so the tanks would simply withdraw from the position. The tanks were at Orion on the 19th and at Kilometer 147 on the 20th. That night the Japanese attempted to land troops on a beach, but the tanks opened fire on them stopping the landing. The tankers and 17th Ordnance worked all day on the 23rd replacing tracks on the tanks.

As to prove how dark it was under the jungle canopy, the B and C Companies had bivouacked for the night, when, at 3:00 a.m., according to Pvt. Herbert Kirchhoff, all hell broke loose. “We thought we were being shelled (by the Japanese) It sounded like the end of the world.” As it turned out, the shells that were landing around them were from American artillery. A Japanese convoy had bivouacked for the night about 100 yards from the tank companies.

During this time, the tanks often found themselves dealing with officers who claimed they were the ranking officers in the area and that they could change the tank company’s orders. Most wanted the tanks to kill snipers or do some other job the infantry had not succeeded at doing. This situation continued until Gen Weaver gave a written order to every tank commander that if an officer attempted to change their orders, they should hand the officer the order. When the officer looked up at the tank commander, the tank commander had his handgun aimed at the officer. Gen Weaver had ordered the tank commanders to shoot any officer attempting to change their orders. This ended the problem.

Companies A and C were ordered to the west coast of Bataan, B Company was held in reserve, and 17th Ordnance held the southern shore of Bataan.  During the night, they were kept busy with repeated threats both on and offshore. 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. During the day, the Japanese would bomb and strafe the airfields, and at night the engineers would repair the airfields. 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. 

The tank battalions, on January 28th, were given the job of protecting the beaches. The 192nd was assigned the coastline from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan’s east coast, while the battalion’s half-tracks were used to patrol the roads. B Company was defending a beach, along the east coast of Bataan, where the Japanese could land troops. One night while on this duty, the company engaged the Japanese in a firefight as they attempted to land troops on the beach. When morning came, not one Japanese soldier had successfully landed on the beach. The Japanese later told the tankers that their presence on the beaches stopped them from attempting landings.

The tank battalions guarded the two beaches on the eastern side of Bataan where the Japanese could attempt landings. The 194th assigned the coast from Limay to Cacaben and the 192nd was assigned the coastline from Paden Point to Limay. The half-tracks of both battalions were used to patrol the roads. One night while on this duty, the B Co., 192nd, engaged the Japanese in a firefight as they attempted to land troops on the beach. When morning came, not one Japanese soldier had successfully landed on the beach. The Japanese later told the tankers that their presence on the beach stopped them from attempting landings.

While doing this job, the tankers noticed that each morning when the PT boats were off the coast they were attacked by Japanese Zeros. B Company made arrangements with the PT boats to be off the beach one morning and wait for the Zeros to arrive and attack. This time when the Japanese Zeros attacked, they were met by machine gun fire from the PT boats but also from the machine guns of the tanks and half-tracks. When the Zeros broke off the attack, they had lost nine of twelve planes. 

B Company had been up all night on beach duty. Every morning “Recon Joe” flew over attempting to locate the tanks under the jungle canopy. On the morning of February 3rd, the tankers were attempting to get some sleep. Sgt. Walter Cigoi aggravated about the plane waking him up, pulled his half-track onto the beach and took a “pot shot” at the plane but missed. Twenty minutes later, Japanese planes appeared and bombed the position. When the bombs hit the treetops, they exploded. Most of the soldiers took cover in or under the tanks. When the attack was over, the tankers found Pvt. Richard Graff and Pvt. Clemath Peppers were dead. Pvt. Francis McGuire and an unknown member of the company were wounded. The unknown man had his leg partially blown off. The tankers attempted to put him in a jeep, but his leg kept flopping and got in the way. To get him into the jeep, his leg was cut off by T/4 Frank Goldstein.

At the same time, B Company was on beach duty, the battalion took part in the Battle of the Points on the west coast of Bataan where the Japanese landed troops that ended up trapped on points sticking out from Bataan. When they attempted to land reinforcements, they landed in the wrong place. One was the Lapay-Longoskawayan points from January 23rd to 29th, the Quinauan-Aglaloma points from January 22nd to February 8th, and the Sililam-Anyasan points from January 27th to February 13th. The Japanese had been stopped, but the decision was made by Brigadier General Clinton A. Pierce that tanks were needed to support the 45th Infantry Philippine Scouts. He also requested the tanks from the Provisional Tank Group.

On February 2nd, a platoon of C Company tanks was ordered to Quinauan Point where the Japanese had landed troops. The tanks arrived at about 5:15 P.M. He did a quick reconnaissance of the area, and after meeting with the commanding infantry officer, made the decision to drive tanks into the edge of the Japanese position and spray the area with machine-gun fire. The progress was slow but steady until a Japanese 37 milometer gun was spotted in front of the lead tank, and the tanks withdrew. It turned out that the gun had been disabled by mortar fire, but the tanks did not know this at the time.

The decision was made to resume the attack the next morning, so the 45th Infantry dug in for the night. The next day, the tank platoon did reconnaissance before pulling into the front line. They repeated the maneuver and sprayed the area with machine gunfire. As they moved forward, members of the 45th Infantry followed the tanks. The troops made progress all day long along the left side of the line. The major problem the tanks had to deal with was tree stumps which they had to avoid so they would not get hung up on them. The stumps also made it hard for the tanks to maneuver. Coordinating the attack with the infantry was difficult, so the decision was made to bring in a radio car so that the tanks and infantry could talk with each other.

Only 3 of 23 tanks were being used and without the support of infantry and the trick during the attack through the jungle was to avoid large trees and clear a way for the infantry to attack. This they did by thrusting into the jungle. They only became aware of enemy positions when they were fired on. The tanks were supposed to have support from mortars but the ammunition was believed to be defective. It was found that the mortars were manned by inexperienced air corpsmen converted to infantry who had no idea that the arming pins on the mortar shells had to be pulled before firing them so the shells landed and did not explode.

On February 4th, at 8:30 A.M. five tanks and the radio car arrived. The tanks were assigned the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, so each tank commander knew which tank was receiving an order. Each tank also received a walkie-talkie, as well as the radio car and infantry commanders. This was done so that the crews could coordinate the attack with the infantry and so that the tanks could be ordered to where they were needed. The Japanese were pushed back almost to the cliffs when the attack was halted for the night. The attack resumed the next morning and the Japanese were pushed to the cliff line where they hid below the edge of the cliff out of view. It was at that time that the tanks were released to return to the 192nd.

The tank group command reported that the tanks’ suspension systems were failing. It was determined that the volute springs were freezing up because of their exposure to salt water. This information was sent to Washington D.C. which ordered that every vehicle using the volute spring suspension system be given new suspension systems.

The tank companies also took part in the Battle of the Pockets in February to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line after a Japanese offensive was stopped and pushed back to the original line of defense. The Little Pocket was on top of a hill a quarter mile behind the main line of defense. The Big Pocket was a half mile south of Trails 5 and 7. Fighting in the Big Pocket 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 each tank company was rotated 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 used to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole. The driver gave the other track power resulting in the tank going around in a circle and grinding its way down into the foxhole. The tankers slept upwind of their tanks so they wouldn’t smell the rotting flesh in the tracks.

While the tanks were doing this job, the Japanese sent soldiers, with cans of gasoline, against the tanks. These Japanese attempted to jump onto the tanks, pour gasoline into the vents on the back of the tanks, and set the tanks on fire. If the tankers could not machine gun the Japanese before they got to a tank, the other tanks would shoot them as they stood on a tank. The tankers did not like to do this because of what it did to the crew inside the tank. When the bullets hit the tank, its rivets would pop and wound the men inside the tank. 

In the Big Pocket, C Company lost one tank, on February 2nd, that had gone beyond the area controlled by the defenders. The tank was disabled by a thermite mine. It appeared that the crew – Sgt. Elmer Smith, Pvt. Vernor Deck, Pvt. Sidney Rattner, and Pvt. Robert Young – were killed by hand grenades thrown into the tank as they attempted to evacuate it. When the tank was recovered, the battalion’s maintenance section removed the bodies which was a gruesome job. The bodies were so badly mangled that the only way to identify them was by matching personal possessions and clothing to the bodies. One man appeared to have been alive when the Japanese began to fill the tank with dirt from the foxhole they dug under it since a handgun with a spent bullet casing was found in the tank. The tank was put back into service.

During the Battle of Toul Pocket, Cpl. Jack Bruce, A Co., was hit by enemy fire and an attempt was made to rescue him. On February 12th. during this recovery attempt, Sgt. John Hopple, HQ Co, was wounded by a sniper as he, Sgt. Owen Sandmire, A Co., and two other members of the battalion attempted to rescue Bruce. The four men crawled out to Bruce, while under fire, put him on the litter, and returned him to American lines. Three of the four rescuers were wounded. Sandmire drove Hopple and the others who had been wounded to the field hospital. To do this he drove down the west coast of Bataan, through Mariveles, and back up the east coast to the field hospital. Because of the tropical climate, infections set in quickly. Hopple succumbed to his wounds later in the day on February 18th at Hospital #1, Little Baguio, on Bataan.

What made this job of eliminating the Japanese so hard was that they had dug “spider holes” among the roots of the trees. Because of this situation, the Americans could not get a good shot at the Japanese. Since the stress on the crews was tremendous, the tanks rotated into the pocket one at a time. A tank entered the pocket and the next tank waited for the tank that had been relieved to exit the pocket before it would enter. This was repeated until all the tanks in the pocket were relieved. 

In another incident, a tank from B Company became wedged between two trees after its driver was blinded by a flame thrower. The crew was ordered out of the tank and told to run. As they ran, the Japanese machine-gunned them. The tank commander was killed instantly, while the other three men made it into a sugarcane field. Only one of the three men was found the next day and was sent to the hospital where he recovered from his wounds. Another man was taken prisoner, while the last man was never heard from again. He may have died from his wounds or was killed by the Japanese. It appears that this tank was also recovered.

The tankers, from A, B, and C Companies, were able to clear the pockets by February 18th, but before this was done, one C Company tank that had gone beyond the American perimeter and was disabled with the crew inside. The tankers stated the tank just sat there, and when the sun came up the next day, the tank was still sitting there. During the night, its crew had attempted to escape the tank and was buried inside the tank, by the Japanese who had dug a machine gun nest under it. When the tank was recovered, it was turned on its side to remove the dirt and recover the bodies of the crew. It was said that one man looked like he was still alive as the tank was filled with dirt. The crew was buried and the tank was put back into use. It was for their performance during this battle that the 192nd Tank Battalion would receive one of its Presidential Unit Citations

The 192nd unlike other units had arrived in the Philippines just before the start of the war, so they did not have the opportunity to stockpile food. The soldiers were hungry and began to eat everything they could get their hands on to eat. The Carabao were tough but if they were cooked long enough they could be eaten. They also began to eat horse meat provided by the 26th U.S. Cavalry. During this time the soldiers ate monkeys, snakes, lizards, horses, and mules. To make things worse, the soldiers’ rations were cut in half again on March 1, 1942. This meant that they only ate two meals a day. The Japanese also were dropping surrender leaflets with the picture of a scantily clad blond on them. The Japanese would have been more successful at getting the Americans to surrender if the picture had been a hamburger since the men were so hungry they more likely would have surrendered for a good meal. The one good thing about the leaflets was they were printed on tissue paper which the men used as toilet paper.

The amount of gasoline in March was reduced to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except the tanks. This would later be dropped to ten gallons a day. It was during this time that Gen Wainwright wanted to turn the tanks into pillboxes. Gen Weaver pointed out to Wainwright that they did not have enough tanks to effectively do this, and if they did, they soon would have no tanks. Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that a platoon of tanks be sent to Corregidor, but Wainwright declined. 

The reality was that the same illnesses that were taking their toll on the Bataan defenders were also taking their toll on the Japanese. American newspapers wrote about the lull in the fighting and the building of defenses against the expected assault that most likely would take place. The soldiers on Bataan also knew that an assault was coming, they just didn’t know when it would take place. The newspapers in the U.S. wrote about the lull in Bataan and the preparations for the expected offensive.

Having brought in combat-harden troops from Singapore, the Japanese launched a major offensive on April 3rd supported by artillery and aircraft. The artillery barrage started at 10 AM and lasted until noon and each shell seemed to be followed by another that exploded on top of the previous shell. At the same time, wave after wave of Japanese bombers hit the same area dropping incendiary bombs that set the jungle on fire. The defenders had to choose between staying in their foxholes and being burned to death or seeking safety somewhere else. As the fire approached their foxholes those men who chose to attempt to flee were torn to pieces by shrapnel. It was said that arms, legs, and other body parts hung from tree branches. A large section of the defensive line at Mount Samat was wiped out. The next day a large force of Japanese troops came over Mt. Samat and descended the south face of the volcano. This attack wiped out two divisions of defenders and left a large area of the defensive line open to the Japanese.

A Co. was attached to the 194th Tank Battalion and was on beach duty with A Co., 194th. When the breakthrough came, the two tank companies were directly in the path of the advance. When the Japanese attempted to land troops, their smoke screen blew into their troops causing them to withdraw.

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 Japanese attacked the line held by American troops on April 8th. It was said that the Japanese made what the Americans called “A Bridge of Death” where the Japanese threw themselves on the barbed wire until there were enough bodies on it so the following troops could walk over it. The defenders were not only defending against a frontal attack, but they also were defending against attacks on their flanks and rear.

It was the evening of April 8th that Gen. 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 were sick or wounded and 40,000 civilians who he feared would be massacred. His troops were on one-quarter rations, and even at that ration, he had two days of food left. He also believed his troops could fight for one more day. Companies B and D, 192nd, and A Company, 194th, were preparing for a suicide attack on the Japanese in an attempt to stop the advance. At 6:00 P.M. 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.” 

Capt. Robert Sorenson, the company commander, ordered the crews to destroy their tanks. They cut the gas lines and threw torches into the tanks. Within minutes, the ammunition inside the tanks began exploding. After this was done, Sorenson and Major John Morley got into his jeep and made their way to Bayakaguin Point which was the command post for the tank group. Behind them in half-tracks were the tank crews of B Company. After arriving there, it was reported the half-tracks were driven off cliffs and a number of men attempted to reach Corregidor.

Shortly after daylight Collier and Hunt returned with word of the appointment.  It was at about 6:45 A.M. that tank battalion commanders received the order “crash.” As Gen. King left to negotiate the surrender, he went through the area held by B Company and the 17th Ordnance Company and spoke to the men. He said to them, “Boys. I’m going to get us the best deal I can. When you get home, don’t ever let anyone say to you; you surrendered. I was the one who surrendered.” Gen. King with his two aides, Maj. Wade R. Cothran and Captain Achille C. Tisdelle Jr. got into a jeep carrying a large white flag. Another jeep followed them – also flying another large white flag – with Col. Collier and Maj. Hurt in it. As the jeeps made their way north, they were strafed and small bombs were dropped by a Japanese plane. The drivers of both jeeps managed to avoid the bullets. The strafing ended when a Japanese reconnaissance plane ordered the fighter pilot to stop strafing.

At about 10:00 A.M. the jeeps reached Lamao where they were received by a Japanese Major General who informed Gen. King that he reported his coming to negotiate a surrender and that an officer from the Japanese command would arrive to do the negotiations. The Japanese officer also told him that his troops would not attack for thirty minutes while King decided what he would do. No Japanese officer had arrived from their headquarters and the Japanese attack had resumed.

King sent Col. Collier and Maj. Hunt back to his command with instructions that any unit in the line of the Japanese advance should fly white flags. After this was done a Japanese colonel and interpreter arrived and King was told the officer was Homma’s Chief of Staff who had come to discuss King’s surrender. King attempted to get assurances from the Japanese that his men would be treated as prisoners of war, but the Japanese officer – through his interpreter – accused him of declining to surrender unconditionally. At one point King stated he had enough trucks and gasoline to carry his troops out of Bataan. He was told that the Japanese would handle the movement of the prisoners. The two men talked back and forth until the colonel said through the interpreter, “The Imperial Japanese Army are not barbarians.” King found no choice but to accept him at his word.

Unknown to Gen. King, an order attributed to Gen. Masaharu Homma – but in all likelihood from one of his subordinates – had been given. It stated, “Every troop which fought against our army on Bataan should be wiped out thoroughly, whether he surrendered or not, and any American captive who is unable to continue marching all the way to the concentration camp should be put to death in the area of 200 meters off the road.”

On the morning of April 9, 1942, the members of B Company received the order to destroy their equipment. They drained the oil out of some of the jeeps and trucks and ran them to burn up the engines. In the case of other vehicles, they poured sand into the motors and ran them. They also took their guns apart and scattered the pieces so that they would not be found. They circled their tanks and each tank fired an armor-piercing shell into the motor of the tank in front of it. The fuel cocks were opened and hand grenades were dropped through the open turrets setting the crew compartments on fire.

In one of the strangest twists of fate, after the Japanese arrived, they assembled members of the company and asked those who could drive an American car to step forward. When all the members present stepped forward, the Japanese became angry. Through an interpreter, the POWs were able to explain that almost everyone in the United States could drive a car which the Japanese found hard to believe. The name of only one man who was selected to drive a car is not known.

The company remained in its bivouac until they were ordered to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan. Available information suggests that the company boarded trucks and rode to Mariveles where they were searched and stripped of anything the Japanese could use. While there, they were fed a spoonful of rice and a square piece of bacon. It was from this barrio that they started what they called “the march.”  The POWs were placed into detachments of 100 POWs that were guarded by six to eight guards and ordered to march. The first five miles were extremely hard because they were uphill.

Several men stated their first guards were combat veterans and treated them fairly well because they viewed the POWs as combat veterans. It was stated by several men that even when the guards changed if the POWs followed orders, they weren’t abused by the guards. They stated that those who defied the Japanese were treated the worse and the beating and killings started because of Japanese frustration with the other POWs. Men also pointed out that one guard would beat a POW while five minutes later another guard would give the same POW a cigarette. Men stated that if they offered a guard a cigarette, the guard usually would offer them one. Still, some guards killed POWs for no reason. The guards were assigned to march a certain distance so they often made the POWs march at a faster pace. Those men who were sick had a hard time keeping up and if they fell out were bayoneted or shot. When the distance was covered, the column was stopped and allowed to rest and the guards were replaced with new guards who also wanted to complete their part of the march as fast as possible.

The lack of food and water was also a major issue for the POWs. The POWs were amazed by the courage of the Filipino people who openly defied the Japanese by giving food and water to the POWs. It was said that every 200 or 300 yards were artesian wells, but the POWs were not allowed to drink from them. As men became more desperate, they would run to the wells only to find that the Japanese had sent advance teams ahead who shot or bayoneted those attempting to get water from the wells. One detachment, with B Company men in it, approached a Filipino who was trying to sell pieces of sugarcane to them. One of the guards went up to the Filipino, grabbed the sugarcane, and threw it to the POWs. The further north they marched the more bloated dead bodies they saw. The ditches along the road were filled with water, but many also had dead bodies in them. The POWs’ thirst got so bad they drank the water. Many men would later die from dysentery.

As the POWs made their way north, the Filipinos filled containers with water and placed them along the road. The POWs could not stop but many were able to scoop water into their canteens. By doing this the Filipinos saved a great many lives. The POWs also could see them flashing the “V” for victory sign under their folder arms.

At the end of each day, the POWs were placed in a bullpen for the night. The next day the prisoners were led out of the bullpen four at a time. When 100 men had been counted, their march would start anew. Only those prisoners who marched were fed and those who stayed in the bullpens were not fed or given anything to drink until they continued the march. Other men stated they went to the sides of the roads and lay down for the night.

The further north they marched the more bloated dead bodies they saw. The ditches along the road were filled with water, but many also had dead bodies in them. The POWs’ thirst got so bad they drank the water. Many of these men would later die from dysentery. The column of POWs was often stopped and pushed off the road and made to sit in the sun for hours. While they at there, the guards would shake down the POWs and take any possession they had that they liked. When they were ordered to move again, it was not unusual for the Japanese passing by them on trucks to entertain themselves by swinging at the POWs with their guns or with bamboo poles.

Men stated that the worst part of the march was the 100-degree temperatures and the lack of food, the lack of water, and the lack of rest. Men recalled watching American prisoners being beaten, shot, and bayoneted by the Japanese guards because they could not keep up with the column. Men stated the hardest thing they had to do was to walk past another POW who had fallen and was pleading for help. They knew that if they tried to help him, they and the man would both be killed.

When they were north of Hermosa, the POWs reached pavement which made the march easier. They received an hour break, but any POW who attempted to lay down was jabbed with a bayonet. After the break, they marched through Layac and Lubao. 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 guards allowed the POWs to lie on the road. The rain revived many of the POWs and gave them the strength to complete the march.

At San Fernando, the POWs were put in another bullpen. In one corner was a slit trench that was the washroom for the POWs. The surface of it moved from the maggots. It is not known how long he was held in the bullpen and if he was fed while there. At some point, the POWs were ordered to form detachments of 100 men and were taken to the train station. There they were packed into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane. The cars were known as “forty or eights” since they could hold forty men or eight horses. Since each detachment had 100 POWs in it, the Japanese put 100 POWs into each boxcar. The POWs were packed in so tightly that those who died remained standing since there was no room for them to fall to the floors of the cars. At Capas, the POWs disembarked and the dead fell to the floors of the cars. When the prisoners got off the train, there were Japanese offering them money to buy food. The POWs had no idea why they were doing this. From Capas, the POWs walked the last miles to Camp O’Donnell which was an unfinished Filipino training base that the Japanese pressed into use as a POW camp on April 1, 1942, because the Japanese believed the camp could hold 15,000 to 20,000 POWs. The POWs were held in two camps with the Americans held on one side of the road while the Filipinos were held on the other side of the road.

At Camp O’Donnell, the POWs were taken into a large field where they were counted and searched and all extra clothing that they had was taken from them and not returned. Blankets, knives, and matches were taken from them. If a man was found to have Japanese money or other items on them, they were taken to the guardhouse. Finally, the camp commandant came out, stood on the back of a flatbed truck, and told them that they were enemies of Japan and would always be Japan’s enemies. He also told them that they were captives and not prisoners of war and would be treated accordingly. After the speech, the prisoners were allowed to go to their barracks. Over the next several days, gunshots were heard to the southeast of the camp as the POWs who had Japanese items on them were executed for looting.

Each unit was assigned its own barracks with the 192nd, 194th, and 17th Ordnance in the same area. There was not enough housing for the POWs and most slept under buildings or on the ground. The barracks were designed for 40 men and those who did sleep in one slept in one with as many 80 to 120 men. Most of the POWs slept on the ground under the barracks. There was no netting to protect the men from malaria-carrying mosquitos as they slept, so many men soon became ill with malaria. The ranking American officer was slapped after asking for building materials to repair the buildings.

The POWs received three meals, mainly rice, a day. For breakfast, they were fed a half cup of soupy rice and occasionally some type of coffee. Lunch each day was half of a mess kit of steamed rice and a half cup of sweet potato soup. Some men said it was slop and made men violently ill. They received the same meal for dinner. All meals were served outside regardless of the weather. Men stated that other men would push the food away and not eat and were gradually starving themselves. When they realized that they were dying they tried to eat but had completely lost their appetites for any food. By May 1st, the food had improved a little with the issuing of a little wheat flour, some native beans, and a small issue of coconut oil. About once every ten days, 3 or 4 small calves were brought into the camp. When the meat was given out, there was only enough for one-fourth of the POWs to receive a piece that was an inch square. A native potato, the camote, was given to the POWs, but most were rotten and thrown out. The POWs had to post guards to prevent other POWs from eating them. The camp had a Black Market and POWs who had money could buy a small can of fish from the guards for $5.00.

One of the biggest problems with the food was the cooks – regardless of unit – pilfered extra food for themselves. It was reported that some of the cooks looked healthier than the average POW. The cooks even sold the food to other POWs. When the cooks were replaced in an attempt to deal with the problem, the new cooks soon were doing the same thing.

There was only one water faucet in the camp, and the prisoners stood in line for 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 by the POWs who came up with the pipe, dug the trench, and ran the waterline. Just like the first faucet, the Japanese turned off the water when they wanted water to bathe, but unlike the first water line, the POWs had the ability to turn on the water again without the Japanese knowing it.

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. The Archbishop of Manila sent a truckload of medical supplies to the camp, but the Japanese commandant refused to allow the truck into the camp. When the Philippine Red Cross sent medical supplies to the camp the Japanese took 95% of the supplies for their use. When a second truck was sent to the camp by the Red Cross, it was turned away.

The POWs in the camp hospital lay on the floor elbow to elbow and only one medic – out of the six medics 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.

The Manila Society – which was a branch of the Philippine Red Cross – collected a great quantity of clothing, medicines, powdered milk, marmalade, and oatmeal and delivered it to the Red Cross which was under Japanese control. They were told they could help make juices and packages of sweet coconut for the POWs and did so. When they were finished, the Japanese stated that it was too good for the Americans and that the packages would be given to their soldiers.

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 bodies were moved to one side, the ground was scraped and lime was spread over it. The bodies were placed in the cleaned area, and the area they had lain was scraped and lime was spread over it. At one point, 80 bodies lay under the hospital awaiting burial.

The dead were carried to the cemetery in litters and placed in a grave with four other POWs. It was not unusual for a POW working this detail to die and be put into the grave with the other dead. Before they were buried, the dead were stripped of their clothing, which was boiled in hot water and then given to another POW who needed clothing.

When the POWs returned to the cemetery in the morning to dig graves for the men who had died during the night, they found the arms and legs of the dead sticking out of the ground and wild dogs pulling on them. The men would chase off the dogs, knock the arms and legs down, and rebury them.

A Japanese clerk, Mr. Nishimura, was in charge of giving work details assignments to the POWs. It was stated he was the camp interpreter and a member of the diplomatic corps. 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. When these men returned to the camp many died. The death rate among the POWs reached 50 men dying a day. 

Documents from after the war state that some of the Japanese assigned to the camp had drug problems which may have contributed to the abusive treatment of the POWs. POWs stated that they noticed that at times the guards had glassy eyes and seemed that their speech was slurred. It also was stated that the Japanese government ordered those soldiers caught abusing drugs be executed. The document also stated that the Japanese government went to great lengths to cover the problem up.

To get out of the camp, the POWs volunteered to go out on work details. Mule, with Field Reed, volunteered to go out on the detail on May 10, 1942. The ranking American officer on the detail was Lt. Col. Ted Wickord, 192nd Tank Battalion. Wickord attempted to fill the roster for the 300-man detail with members of the tank group to get them out of Camp O’Donnell. When the Japanese figured out what he was doing, they stopped him.

The detail left Camp O’Donnell on May 1st, and the Japanese engineers running the detail treated the POWs better than the POWs on other details. The Japanese commanding officer was Captain Wakamori and his second in command was Lt. Miyasato both had gone to college in the United States. It was stated that they allowed the POWs to roam the barrio without guards but the POWs could not go beyond the boundaries of the barrio. The Japanese also did not stop the Filipinos from giving food to the POWs. The food was good but not enough so men still quickly came down with beriberi, dysentery, and yellow jaundice. A Filipino doctor was allowed to treat the sick every day, and the Japanese allowed the POWs to take part in two celebrations in the barrio. During these fiestas, the POWs were asked to sing songs and the Japanese also sang their songs. 

Once out of the camp, the POWs were broken into four detachments of 80 men each which were divided into four squads of 20 men. One squad wore pink armbands, one blue, one white, and one green. The POWs had to wear the armbands at all times. In all, the detail rebuilt 13 bridges that had been destroyed during the retreat into Bataan. The detachment was first sent to Calauan. There, the POWs were amazed by the concern shown to them by the Filipino people. The townspeople arranged for their doctors and nurses to care for the POWs and give them medication.

The work was hard, and one of the hardest jobs on the detail was driving pilings into the river banks. This the men did by hand by cranking up a pile driver that dropped a weight onto the piling. It appears six men worked the pile driver and were divided into teams of two men. One team of two men operated the pile driver. Each man cranked part of a handle on the winch that lifted a heavy weight 18 to 20 feet above the pile. When the weight was released, the weight fell and hit the piling and drove it into the riverbank. The POWs rotated so they had a rest, but because they were underfed, they tired quickly, and by the end of the work day, the POWs were exhausted.

Daily, about 20 POWs were healthy enough to work. At some point, another group of 40 POWs arrived from Cabanatuan. Malaria in particular began to take its toll on them. The Filipinos left bundles of cinchona bark with instructions on boiling it to make a syrup that was effective against malaria and stopped the spread of malaria. The POWs were also often sick with beriberi and dysentery. 

The Japanese pressed the local Filipinos into working on the bridge. The detail had a detachment of 200 Filipinos, but the hard and most difficult work was always given to the Americans. The Japanese treated them just like they treated the POWs. One reason was that at night something always seemed to happen that slowed down the work on the bridge. Equipment that worked perfectly well the day before would malfunction for no reason or completely break down. The pile drivers were sabotaged so once the weight was in position, it could not be released.  

One Japanese guard liked to abuse the POWs. One day, Joseph “Mule” Henderson and Field Reed had the job of pushing debris away from the pilings that the POWs were placing in the river. To do this job, they used long bamboo poles. The guard arrived and proceeded to abuse them. One of the men took the bamboo pole and hit the guard. The two men used their bamboo poles as weapons and killed the guard. After the guard was dead, they dumped his body into the river. When the Japanese came looking for the guard, the two POWs said that he had been with them earlier in the day but he had left sometime earlier.

It is known that it was in this barrio that the POWs and Japanese played their first baseball game against each other. The Japanese engineer in charge of the detail played for both teams. No one seemed to recall who won the game, but it was said the POWs cheered for both teams.

While at Calauan, the POWs got word that one of the POWs on the sawmill detail had escaped. The word was that ten men from the detail would be executed. Col. Wickord was sent to the sawmill to witness the execution and warn his men about the consequences. When he returned, he informed his men that the commanding officer had been told to select ten men for execution. The officer had a terrible time doing this and finally chose the five men who slept to the escapee’s right and the five men who slept to his left. The officer surmised that the night the man had escaped one of them must have heard something and could have prevented it.

The “selected” were made to dig their own graves. One pleaded with the ranking American officer to do something. All he could tell the man was that there was nothing he could do. Another regretted that he would never see Denver again. One of the men was the brother of another man on the detail. Even though other POWs volunteered to take his place, the Japanese would not allow it. The men were offered blindfolds but refused them. They were then shot. After falling into their graves, the Japanese shot them again.

On May 15, 1942, the Filipinos began to collect a large amount of food. When the Filipinos had enough food, they held a special meal for the POWs at the local Catholic church on June 1. Just before the POWs were sent to Batangas to rebuild other bridges, an order of Catholic Sisters – who had been recently freed from custody – invited the Japanese commander and Lt. Col. Wickord and twelve POWs for a dinner the last night in the barrio. Six of the POWs were Prostitutes and six were Catholic.

Capt. Wakamori was supposed to attend the dinner but became ill. Before the POWs marched to the church he said to them, “Men, you’re on your honor. You are at liberty for the day.” During the dinner, the local Catholic priest walked among the prisoners dropping packs of cigarettes on the floor for them. To signal them about what he was doing, the priest looked down to the ground so that the POWs looked down and picked up a pack of cigarettes. The Filipinos were allowed to give the leftover food to the POWs who had not attended the meal. During the dinner, the local Catholic priest walked among the prisoners dropping packs of cigarettes on the floor for them. To signal them about what he was doing, the priest looked down to the ground. The POWs looked down and picked up a pack of cigarettes.

While he was out on the detail, his mother received a communique from the War Department.

“Dear Mrs. E. Henderson:

        “According to War Department records, you have been designated as the emergency addressee of Private Joseph P. Henderson, 06,576,589, who, according to the latest information available, was serving in the  Philippine Islands at the time of the final surrender. 

        “I deeply regret that it is impossible for me to give you more information than is contained in this letter.  In the last days before the surrender of Bataan, there were casualties which were not reported to the War Department.  Conceivably the same is true of the surrender of Corregidor and possibly other islands of the Philippines.  The Japanese Government has indicated its intention of conforming to the terms of the Geneva Convention with respect to the interchange of information regarding prisoners of war.  At some future date, this Government will receive through Geneva a list of persons who have been taken prisoners of war.  Until that time the War Department cannot give you positive information. 

        “The War Department will consider the persons serving in the Philippine Islands as “missing in action” from the date of surrender of Corregidor, May 7, 1942, until definite information to the contrary is received.  It is to be hoped that the Japanese Government will communicate a list of prisoners of war at an early date.  At that time you will be notified by this office in the event that his name is contained in the list of prisoners of war.   In the case of persons known to have been present in the Philippines and who are not reported to be prisoners of war by the Japanese Government, the War Department will continue to carry them as “missing in action” in the absence of information to the contrary, until twelve months have expired.  At the expiration of twelve months and in the absence of other information the War Department is authorized to make a final determination.

        “Recent legislation makes provision to continue the pay and allowances of persons carried in a “missing” status for a period not to exceed twelve months;  to continue, for the duration of the war, the pay and allowances of persons known to have been captured by the enemy; to continue allotments made by missing personnel for a period of twelve months and allotments or increase allotments made by persons by the enemy during the time they are so held;  to make new allotments or increase allotments to certain dependents defined in Public Law 490, 77th Congress.  The latter dependents generally include the legal wife, dependent children under twenty-one years of age, and dependent mother, or such dependents as having been designated in official records.  Eligible dependents who can establish a need for financial assistance and are eligible to receive this assistance the amount allotted will be deducted from pay which would otherwise accrue to the credit of the missing individual.

                                                                                                                                                                    “Very Truly yours

                                                                                                                                                                            J. A. Ulio (signed) 
                                                                                                                                                                       Major General
                                                                                                                                                                   The Adjutant General”
   

When the bridge was finished the POWs moved to Batangas where they lived in a two-floor school. The Japanese lived on the first floor and the POWs lived on the second floor. Bernard Fitzpatrick, 194th, stated that the building was clean and the POWs could look out of the windows and see the harbor. He also said that the building had lush lawns around it and the POWs were allowed to sleep outside in good weather. Many of the POWs ended up with dysentery from the water. Once again, the people of the town did whatever they could to help the Americans. An order of Roman Catholic sisters brought the POWs food and clothing that they scrounged up. Because of the work, most of the uniforms of the POWs had disintegrated. 

The POWs found a map of the world. On the map, the POWs pointed to Japan which their guards recognized. They then pointed to the United States – and included Canada – and said “America.” By the looks on the guards’ faces, the POWs knew they had gotten the message. The geography lesson ended when a Japanese sergeant saw what the POWs were doing.

The POWs arrived at the bridge to work and saw the Japanese running around. All they could tell was that something had agitated them. When they got closer to the bridge, they looked down and saw the heads of two Japanese soldiers on poles. They had been killed by Filipino guerrillas during the night.

When the work was finished on the bridge, the POWs boarded trucks and went to Candelaria to rebuild their final bridges. Unlike the other barrios, the Filipinos kept their distance from the POWs. At this barrio, the POWs slept in a coconut processing mill with a fence around it. During the nights, since they were locked in, the building grew hot. The food at this time also deteriorated in its quality and many of the POWs came down with malaria, scurvy, and pellagra. The Japanese brought the Filipino doctor from Calauan to the work site and he told the Japanese to give the POWs limes. The POWs’ health improved after they received the limes. While the POWs worked, the Filipinos were allowed to bring them food which also resulted in their health improving.

The POWs found themselves repairing a concrete bridge that had been extensively damaged. Instead of replacing it with a wooden bridge, they repaired the existing bridge. The sand and cement were brought to a large flat-bottomed box with wheelbarrows and dumped into the box. Buckets of water were dumped into it from buckets into the box. They then mixed it by hand with Japanese shovels. This was the hardest part of the job. When the work on this bridge was finished, they built a wooden bridge near the barrio. It was said they built 30 bridges while on the detail.

It is known that the POWs took part in a baseball game there against the Japanese. According to Fitzpatrick, the game ended when a Japanese colonel from Manila arrived for an inspection and decided the POWs were unworthy to play against the Japanese soldiers.

The Japanese held a ceremony commemorating the bridge and the POWs were in the audience. They then were taken to a market in San Pablo where the Japanese guards bought them fruit and sweet cakes that they put into their sacks. They then returned to the warehouse and were given a week off to rest before they boarded the trucks and were taken to Cabanatuan which had opened to replace Camp O’Donnell. When they arrived at Cabanatuan, none of the POWs were searched because their bags had tags on them – issued by the Japanese engineers – that allowed them to be brought into the camp without being searched. Inside the bags, many of the POWs carried food and other items that would have been taken from them if they had been searched.

Cabanatuan which was three camps opened to replace Camp O’Donnell. Cabanatuan 1 was where most of the men who captured on Bataan and took part in the march were held. Cabantuan 2 was two miles from Cabanatuan 1 and was where Bataan Hospital #2 patients were sent from Bilibid. It had an inadequate water supply and was closed, but it later reopened and housed Naval POWs. Cabanatuan 3 was three miles from Cabanatuan 2 and was where most of those men captured when Corregidor surrendered were taken. It was consolidated into Cabanatuan 1 on October 30th.

It is not known when, but he was selected as a replacement worker for another detail to Palawan Island. The original POW detachment to the island arrived on August 12, 1942. The POW camp was designated 10-A and the POWs occupied the old Constabulary barracks. Since the quarters had fallen apart, the POWs spent the next week attempting to make the barracks livable. Little is known about the food given to the POWs. What is known is that the food was wormy rice and a cup of soup. Those who were sick had their rations cut in half.

When work was started on the airfield, the Japanese expected the prisoners to build it with picks, shovels, and wheelbarrows. The POWs were taken to Puerto Princess where the men had been divided into two detachments of 150 men each. The POWs referred to these detachments as A Company and B Company. Since they were clearing a jungle, trees had to be removed. This was done by the POWs taking turns chopping down the trees. It took the POWs about a year to clear the area for the airfield. The work was so hard that POWs were returned to Manila and new POWs arrived on a regular basis.

The work was so hard that POWs were returned to Manila and new POWs arrived on a regular basis. Joseph appears to have been one of the replacements on the detail. The POWs worked under a scorching sun with inadequate food, water, and clothing. The POWs worked in tidal water that was alive with jellyfish. They also unloaded bags of cement from the holds of ships and were given nothing to drink although the air was full of dust from the cement. What made the situation worse was that the officers were not required to work which caused resentment between the enlisted men and them. To get out of work, POWs paid other POWs two cigarettes to break their arms.

The Japanese referred to the camp as, “The Happy Place.” The camp commander would call the POWs together and say, “You moost work harder, you moost work faster.” After saying this, he had the guards hit the POWs with two-inch-thick clubs. They also received brutal treatment at the hands of the Japanese guards, and the men were beaten with pick handles. They were kicked and slapped on a daily basis, and prisoners who attempted to escape were executed.

It was in late February 1943, that his mother received word that he was a Prisoner of War in a telegram from the War Department.

“E HENDERSON
5454 IMPERIAL
LOS ANGELES CA

“REPORT JUST RECEIVED THROUGH INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS STATES THAT YOUR SON PRIVATE JOSEPH P HENDERSON IS A PRISONER OF WAR OF THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT IN PHILIPPINE ISLANDS LETTER OF INFORMATION FOLLOWS FROM THE PROVOST MARSHALL GENERAL=
        ULIO THE ADJUTANT GENERAL=”

Within days of receiving the first message, they received a second message:

“Dear Mrs. Hendserson:

                      “Report had been received that your son, Private Joseph P. Henderson, 06,576,589, Infantry, is now a prisoner of war to the Japanese Government in the Philippine Islands. This is to confirm my telegram of February –, 1943.

                      “The Provost Marshall General, Prisoner of War Information Bureau, Washington, D. C., will furnish you the address to which mail may be sent. Any future correspondence in connection with his status as a prisoner of war should be addressed to that office.

                                                                                                                                             Very truly yours,

                                                                                                                                                 J. A. Ulio (signed)
                                                                                                                                                  Major General,
                                                                                                                                            The Adjutant General.

This was followed by a third message.

“Mrs. Emma Henderson
5454 Imperial Highway
Los Angeles

“The Provost Marshal General directs me to inform you that you may communicate with your son, postage free, by following the inclosed instructions:

“It is suggested that you address him as follows:

“Pvt. Joseph P. Henderson, U.S. Army
Interned in the Philippine Islands
C/O Japanese Red Cross, Tokyo, Japan
Via New York, New York

“Packages cannot be sent to the Orient at this time. When transportation facilities are available a package permit will be issued you.

“Further information will be forwarded you as soon as it is received.

                                                                                                                                                “Sincerely

                                                                                                                                               “Howard F. Bresee
                                                                                                                                               “Colonel, CMP
                                                                                                                                               “Chief Information Bureau”

Joseph was publicly listed as a POW on April 3, 1945, when the names of men known to be Japanese POWs were released by the War Department.

According to Sgt. Rufus W. Smith who was in the original POW detachment sent to the island, the camp commander, and guards were changed three times while they were on the island. With each change, the treatment of the POWs got worse. The first camp commander gave the POWs one day off a week. He also gave them balls and gloves and let them play baseball and basketball. There were beatings under the first and second commanders, but they were not as frequent. The third commander forgot about days off and beatings of POWs hung by their thumbs or toes were common. Of this, he said, “I never heard of a prisoner going before the Jap MPs for any reason without being beaten. I will never know how some of the men lived through them.”

Meals for the POWs were boiled rice. The Japanese did not provide any utensils for the POWs to use to eat, so the rice was put into their hands. If the Filipinos tried to give the POWs food, they were killed.

Ten POWs on the detail worked as mechanics at a Japanese garage repairing trucks, while the remaining POWs were divided into two detachments of 150 men each. The POWs referred to these detachments as A Company and B Company. Since they were clearing a jungle, trees had to be removed. This was done by the POWs taking turns chopping down the trees and then removing the stumps. The Japanese expected the prisoners to do the work with picks, shovels, and wheelbarrows. It took the POWs about a year to clear the area for the airfield.

New POWs arrived regularly and it appears he was one of the replacements. The POWs worked under a scorching sun with inadequate food, water, and clothing. The POWs worked in tidal water that was alive with jellyfish. They also unloaded bags of cement from the holds of ships and were given nothing to drink although the air was full of dust from the cement. What made the situation worse was that the officers were not required to work which caused resentment between the enlisted men and them. To get out of work, POWs paid other POWs two cigarettes to break their arms.

In December 1942, six POWs had been in communication with a Filipino. When the man was caught, he was tortured until he gave up the names of the Americans he had been communicating with. The POWs were taken to trees in the POW camp and had their arms stretched and tied around the trees. They were then beaten with a small metal wire whip across the small of their backs.

Capt. Fred Bruni was the ranking American officer and was in charge of the detail. In this role, he often found himself giving orders that created resentment among the enlisted men. Many failed to see that Fred had little choice in the matter; either he gave the order or he and the men would be punished.

In February 1943, four POWs escaped but were not missed until the next morning.  Two of the POWs were recaptured and taken to a Kempei-Tai (Japanese secret police) dungeon. It is known that one of the POWs was decapitated. On June 28, 1943, two POWs escaped and were recaptured on July 4. They were severely beaten before they were turned over to the Kemper-Tai who hit the men with clubs and swords and used judo on them. The Japanese put the men on a truck that made its way toward a beach. According to Filipino civilians, they heard four shots. Later, some of the POWs saw the men’s graves.

Three POWs attempted to get guns from the local population. It is not known how the Japanese found out about the plan, but all three men were executed. In another incident, a POW was shot by a guard because he did not get up fast enough when lunch ended. It was also stated that the POWs were allowed to search for food during their lunch and that one POW – for no apparent reason – had his back fractures when a guard for no reason. The man was paralyzed for two weeks. If the Japanese believed that the POWs were not working hard enough, they were lined up and beaten. It was reported that this happened to a detachment of 25 POWs.

Nine POWs were beaten after they were caught stealing corned beef from the camp in April. It appears that the same men also had made contact with Filipinos about getting them food. In a second incident, the POWs were stripped to the waist and beaten with a whip made of a piece of leather about 3 feet long.  They were also hit with a bamboo pole that was 6 feet long and 2 to 3 inches thick until they passed out. They were then revived with water and beaten again. When Nishitani got tired of beating them, he turned the beating over to his subordinates. If he did not like the way they were beating the POWs, he took over and demonstrated how he wanted it done. It was stated the beatings went on for two weeks. When they ended, the men were sent to Bilibid Prison in Manila.

In another incident, two POWs had their arms broken by the camp cook, Nishitani, for picking papaya from a tree within the compound after receiving permission to do so from a guard. If any POWs escaped, the POWs had their food rations reduced as punishment. Three POWs were beaten by him after being tied to a coconut tree in the middle of the compound with a small wire whip and a pole that was 3 inches to 4 inches in diameter until two of the three lost consciousness. They were then revived with water and beaten again. When he got tired of beating them, he turned the beating over to his subordinates. He did not like the way they were beating the POWs, so he took over and demonstrated how he wanted it done. They were beaten because they had stolen corned beef from the Japanese storehouse and had talked to a Filipino. After the beating, the men were sent to Bilibid Prison in Manila.

On another occasion, 29 POWs were bathing using water dripping from a tank alongside their barracks. Nishitani had the 29 men thrown into the brig. On their way to the brig, he stood in their path and swung at their heads with an iron bar as they went into the building. His excuse for beating the POWs was that the water they were using was dirty and not fit to bathe with.

In May 1943, 66 POWs were lined up in the prison compound. One at a time each man was ordered out of line and was hit on his buttock and spine about 30  times with a club the size of a baseball. Also in May, fifteen other POWs were beaten for another unknown reason. 

Two POWs escaped from the camp in August 1943 but were recaptured four days later by the Kempi-Tai (The Japanese secret police). They were brought into the compound and tied up in front of the guard house with their hands behind their backs. The POWs remained in the position for about 16 hours and were beaten with clubs and rifle butts, jabbed with bayonets, and hot needles were stuck into them. One POW was blinded by the hot needles which had been stuck into his eyes. The Japanese put the men on a truck that made its way toward a beach. According to Filipino civilians, they heard four shots. Later, some of the POWs saw the men’s graves.

Medical supplies on the island were almost none existent. The Japanese command in Manila sent Red Cross medical supplies to the island for the POWs in January 1944. The Japanese commander had his men go through all the boxes and remove the drugs and medicine from them. The POWs received one British Red Cross box and one from the American Red Cross. Each box was shared by two POWs.

At least six POWs were accused of breaking into the storeroom and stealing food. They were tied to coconut trees and beaten about the shoulders with pick handles and large sticks. After the beating, they were put in the brig without receiving medical treatment. Two POWs were blinded, beaten with rifle butts and sticks, and stuck with bayonets in September 1943. Another POW had his hands and feet tied to the flag pole and was forced to remain in a standing position from 8:00 AM to 8 PM. In another incident on October 3, seven POWs were beaten, clubbed, hit with sabers, and had judo used on them. They were suspended off the floor with their hands tied behind their backs.

On October 3, seven POWs were punished by the Japanese. They were beaten, clubbed, and hit with swords, and had judo used on them before they were suspended above the ground and beaten again. Capt. Fred Bruni, A Co., 192nd, frequently was involved in situations where no matter what he did, he would anger either the enlisted men or the officers. Things really came to a head during Christmas of 1943. The Japanese promised the POWs a large Christmas dinner. There was already a great deal of resentment toward the officers since they did not have to work while the enlisted men did. When Christmas arrived, the “large dinner” turned out to be a total of six chickens. Bruni found himself having to make a choice between giving all the chickens to the enlisted men or giving five chickens to the enlisted men and one chicken to the officers. This meant 100 enlisted men had to share five chickens. Many of the men carried hard feelings toward Bruni because of this decision.

When the majority of work was completed on the airfield, the Japanese decided that half the POWs would be returned to Manila. The POWs were divided into two groups of 150 men. One of the groups was returned to Manila on a ship on September 22, 1944.

On October 19, 1944, the POWs saw their first American planes in over two years. Seventeen B-24s raided the airfield. The planes strafed and sank three inter-island boats, sank three seaplanes that were anchored, and then destroyed some of the planes at the airfield. Sgt. Rufus W. Smith recalled, “After that, the Japs let us fix some air raid shelters in the compound yard. They only wanted us to fix them with only one entrance, but we kept insisting they let us leave both ends open — but only wide enough for one man at a time.”

The planes returned on October 28th and strafed and bombed the airfield again. The Japanese Air Force squadron that was based at the airfield was moved out at that time, and the POWs were ordered to fill in craters on the runways from the bombings. For some unknown reason, the Japanese command in Manila failed to issue orders to send the remaining POWs on the island back to Manila or the decision of what would happen to the POWs had already been made.

After the second air raid, the POWs were ordered to dig three air raid trenches. The trenches were five feet deep and four feet wide. Each trench could hold 50 men and, at first, had one entrance. The officers had a smaller trench. The Japanese seemed to believe that the POWs were the cause of the air raids so the treatment given to them got worse. 

It was December 11th, and an American convoy was spotted approaching Palawan, and the Japanese believed this was an invasion force heading to the island. According to Smith, “The Japs starting running madly through the camp going on beach defense. We picked up from some of them that an American convoy was nearby.” The fact was the convoy was heading to the Island of Mindoro just south of Luzon. The Japanese believed that Palawan would soon be invaded by the advancing American forces. It was on December 13th, these orders were issued, “At the time of the enemy landing, if the prisoners of war are harboring an enemy feeling, dispose of them at the appropriate time.”

The POWs knew something was going on on December 14th. After working that morning they returned to the camp at noon. During lunch, there were two air raid warnings and the POWs went into the trenches. As they entered the trenches, they noticed that extra guards had been placed around the compound. Around 2:00 P.M., another air raid warning was given. Since they had been through two false alarms that day, the POWs did not go into the trenches until forced to do so by the Japanese. Once the POWs were in the trenches, the Japanese armed their guns. Of this, Smith stated, “They brought us in from work at noon, something that had never happened before. About 12:40 p.m. am air raid and we went to our shelters.

“Presently a small group of Jap guards accompanied by two or three officers entered the compound yard. They told us to stay in our shelters and not to look out.”

One of the survivors during the post-war trial in 1948 described what happened. 

“No sooner were the last men ‘safely’ hidden from the dangers of an American air raid than two companies of Japanese soldiers armed with buckets of gasoline, torches, rifles, machine guns, fixed bayonets and hand grenades entered the compound and preceded to carry into effect the plan for the annihilation of every single POWs”

The Japanese approached the first trench, and threw lit torches into it and one or two buckets of gasoline. which set the POWs on fire. Those who ran from the shelter were shot. Those who begged to be shot in the head were shot or bayoneted in the stomach. The Japanese laughed at the POWs as they killed them. The guards also fired into the other trenches and threw hand grenades into them.

Sgt. Douglas W. Bogue who was in a trench said, “I looked out and screaming heathens were pouring gasoline into A Company’s shelter and tossing torches inside. When the yanks in flames came scrambling out, they mowed them down (with machine guns).

Smith was able to see what was going on and stated, “I saw the Japs throw gasoline in each end of the biggest shelter and toss torches in after it. They did the same thing immediately after at two other shelters. Men screamed. Men moaned, Men broke from the shelters, their clothes, faces, and hands afire. Japs shot them down. Laughing. Japs jabbed them in their guts with bayonets.

“In our shelter, they didn’t believe me at first when I saw and quickly told what was going on. Two others looked out. We went out through our hole.”

He also said, “The ones that managed to get out of the fire and on their feet, well, they were shot, bayoneted, knocked down where they couldn’t do any damage and left there to suffer until they died.”

According to Bogue, he was hiding on the cliff and could see the trench that Lt. Commander Harry C Knight, Lt. Carl Mango, Warrant Officer Glen C. Turner, and Bruni were in.  According to him, the trench was on fire and the four men were hopelessly trapped in it.

Forty or fifty men still managed to get out of the trenches and jumped from a fifty-foot cliff to the beach. Shore sentries and guards on barges shot at them from the cliffs and boats. The POWs who escaped were hunted down. Those who were recaptured by the Japanese were buried alive while men who attempted to swim to safety were shot in the water by the Japanese in boats. Those who hid in the crevices in the cliffs were killed when the Japanese dynamited them. Seven POWs were behind a  huge rock. A passing patrol boat saw a leg sticking out from behind it and opened fire and hit the man. After he had been hit, the man came out from behind the rock and was machine-gunned to death saving the lives of the other six men. Believing they had killed the only man there, the patrol boat left the area. The POWs who did survive managed to make the swim to another island at night. On the island, they were protected by Filipinos until rescued by American forces.

When the 186th Infantry Regiment of the 41st Infantry Division arrived at Puerto Princesa, they already knew what they would find. In the backyard of the Philippines Constabulary Building, they found the three mounds where the murdered POWs were buried. His family did not learn of his death until September 12, 1945. WHEN the families of men who died in the massacre received this letter or a form of it:

“Mrs. Emma Henderson
5355 West 120th Street
Los Angeles

“It is with deep regret that I am writing to confirm the recent telegram informing you of the death of your son, Private Joseph P. Henderson 06,576,589, infantry, who was previously reported a prisoner of war.

“Pvt. Joseph P. Henderson was in the brutal massacre of 150 members of the U.S. army, navy, and marine corps in a gigantic gasoline bonfire on December 14, 1944, at Puerto Princess prison camp, Palawan, in the Philippine Islands.

“This group of prisoners was attacked without warning by their Japanese guards who attempted to massacre the prisoners to the last man. Ten prisoners succeeded in escaping and these were the only survivors. It had now been officially established by reports received by the war department that all the remaining prisoners perished as a result of this ruthless attack.

“Respectfully yours,

“Edward F. Witsell, acting adjutant general of the army

After the war, the remains of 17 of the POWs were identified after being disinterred. The remains of the other 123 POWs who died, including the remains of Pvt. Joseph P. Henderson, were reburied at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery on February 14, 1952. This location was selected since it meant the majority of families would have approximately the same distance to travel to visit the grave. 

Any additional information on Pvt. Joseph P. Henderson is appreciated.

Palawan 1

HendersonGrave

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