Sgt. Albert Leroy Allen Jr. was born on February 26, 1920, in Mansfield, Ohio, and was the son of Albert L. Allen Sr. and Beulah Allen and lived at 21 Linden Road in Mansfield. He was a 1938 graduate of Mansfield High School. Albert attended Wooster College for two years in Wooster, Ohio, and transferred to Ohio State University in Columbus. Albert registered for Selective Service on December 14, 1940, and named his father as his contact person. His father was on the draft board for Mansfield and told Albert that he thought it would be a good idea for him to enlist and get into artillery. On January 29, 1941, Alber enlisted at Fort Hayes in Columbus, Ohio, and was inducted into the U.S. Army at Fort Hayes. He was asked by a sergeant if he was a mechanic or had ever worked with heavy construction equipment. He answered “No.” He added that the only time that he had seen it was when he was working on roads for the county one summer. The sergeant said to him, “That’s good enough, you’re in the tank corps,” and Albert found himself assigned to C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. He and other men from Selective Service were assigned to the company to keep it National Guard.
Three days later he had been sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, and assigned to C Company of the 192nd Tank Battalion. The reason for this was the army was attempting to fill vacancies in each of the battalion’s companies with men from the home states of the company. C Company was the smallest, in number, of National Guardsmen, and had to be brought up to full strength. It was during this time that he became good friends with Vincent R. Brown.
He recalled that basic training was rushed and finished in seven weeks. During week 1, the soldiers did infantry drilling; week 2, manual arms and marching to music; week 3, machine gun training; week 4, was pistol usage; week 5, M1 rifle firing; week 6, was training with gas masks, gas attacks, pitching tents, and hikes; week 7 was spent learning the weapons, firing each one, learning the parts of the weapons and their functions, field stripping and caring for weapons, and the cleaning of weapons. All the training was done with the 69th Tank Regiment of the First Armored Division under the supervision of officers and enlisted men from the 192nd.
In late March 1941, the 192nd was moved to new barracks at Wilson Road and Seventh Avenue at Ft. Knox. The barracks had bathing and washing facilities in them and a day room. The new kitchens had larger gas ranges, automatic gas heaters, large pantries, and mess halls. One reason for this move was the men from selective service were permanently joining the battalion.
A typical day for the soldiers started at 6:15 with reveille, but most of the soldiers were up before this since they wanted to wash and dress. Breakfast was from 7:00 to 8:00 A.M., followed by calisthenics from 8:00 to 8:30. Afterward, the tankers went to various schools within the company. The classes consisted of .30 and .50 caliber machine guns, pistols, map reading, care of personal equipment, military courtesy, and training in tactics. At 11:30 the soldiers stopped what they were doing and cleaned up for mess which was from noon to 1:00 P.M. Afterward, they attended the various schools to which they had been assigned such as mechanics, tank driving, and radio operating. At 4:30, the soldiers called it a day and returned to their barracks and put on dress uniforms, and at five held retreat and followed by dinner at 5:30. After dinner, they were off duty, and lights were out at 9:00 P.M., but they did not have to turn in until 10:00 when Taps was played.
During his training at Ft. Knox, Allen was assigned to reconnaissance and was given a jeep to drive. There were five other men in his unit who had the job to study the bridges and conditions of the roads up to 150 miles from where their HQ was. On June 14 and 16, the battalion was divided into four detachments composed of men from different companies. Available information shows that C and D Companies, part of HQ Company and part of the Medical Detachment left on June 14, while A and B Companies, and the other halves of HQ Company and the Medical Detachment left the fort on June 16. These were tactical maneuvers – under the command of the commanders of each of the letter companies. The three-day tactical road marches were to Harrodsburg, Kentucky, and back. Each tank company traveled with 20 tanks, 20 motorcycles, 7 armored scout cars, 5 jeeps, 12 peeps (later called jeeps), 20 large 2½-ton trucks (these carried the battalion’s garages for vehicle repair), 5, 1½-ton trucks (which included the companies’ kitchens), and 1 ambulance.
The detachments traveled through Bardstown and Springfield before arriving at Harrodsburg at 2:30 P.M. where they set up their bivouac at the fairgrounds. The next morning, they moved to Herrington Lake east of Danville, where the men swam, boated, and fished. The battalion returned to Ft. Knox through Lebanon, New Haven, and Hodgenville, Kentucky. At Hodgenville, the men were allowed to visit the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln. The purpose of the maneuvers was to give the men practice at loading, unloading, and setting up administrative camps to prepare them for the Louisiana maneuvers.
The 192nd Tank Battalion was sent to Louisiana, in the late summer of 1941, to take part in maneuvers. About half of the battalion left Ft. Knox on September 1 in trucks and other wheeled vehicles and spent the night in Clarksville, Tennessee, where they spent the night. By 7:00 A.M. the next morning, the detachment was on the move. On the second day, the soldiers saw their first cotton fields which they found fascinating. They spent the night in Brownsville, Tennessee, and were again on the move the following morning at 7:00 A.M. At noon, the convoy crossed the Mississippi River which they found amazing, and spent the night in Clarksdale, Mississippi. At noon the next day, the convoy crossed the lower part of Arkansas and arrived at Tallulah, Louisiana, where, they washed, relaxed, and played baseball against the locals. It also gave them a break from sitting on wooden benches in the trucks. The remaining soldiers, the tanks, and other equipment were sent by train and left the base on September 3. When they arrived at Tremont, Lousiana, the men, and trucks who had driven to Louisiana were waiting for them at the train station.
The battalion’s bivouac was in the Kisatchi Forest. What made the bivouac worse was that the rainy season started and the men found themselves living in it. On one occasion the battalion was bivouac near a canal and the next morning the men found themselves in water over their shoes trying to dig ditches for drainage. The members of B Company captured a medium size alligator in their bivouac and pulled it around at the end of a leash made from a rope.
Since it was the rainy season, it was always damp which made it hard to start a fire to cook. As a result, the food was also not very good. Many of their meals were C ration meals of beans or chili that they choked down. Washing clothes was done when the men had a chance. They did this by finding a creek, looking for alligators, and if there were none, taking a bar of soap and scrubbing whatever they were washing. Clothes were usually washed once a week or once every two weeks.
The maneuvers were described by other men as being awakened at 4:30 A.M. and sent to an area to engage an imaginary enemy. After engaging the enemy, the tanks withdrew to another area. The crews had no idea what they were doing most of the time because they were never told anything by the higher-ups. Some felt that they just rode around in their tanks a lot. During the maneuvers, the tanks held defensive positions and usually were held in reserve by the higher headquarters. For the first time, the tanks were used to counter-attack and in support of infantry. Many of the men felt that the tanks were finally being used like they should be used and not as “mobile pillboxes.”
During their training at Ft. Knox, the tankers were taught that they should never attack an anti-tank gun head-on. One day during the maneuvers, their commanding general threw away the entire battalion doing just that. After sitting out a period of time, the battalion resumed the maneuvers.
The major problem for the tanks was the sandy soil. On several occasions, tanks were parked and the crews walked away from them. When they returned, the tanks had sunk into the sandy soil up to their hauls. To get them out, other tanks were brought in and attempted to pull them out. If that didn’t work, the tankers brought a tank wrecker to pull the tank out from Camp Polk.
The one good thing that came out of the maneuvers was that the tank crews learned how to move at night. At Ft. Knox this was never done. Without knowing it, the night movements were preparing them for what they would do in the Philippines since most of the battalion’s movements there were made at night. The drivers learned how to drive at night and to take instructions from their tank commanders who had a better view from the turret.
Allen was assigned a peep (later called jeeps) which was the newest thing that the army had. He recalled that during the maneuvers men from the other army would surrender to the tankers because they wanted to get a ride in one of them. On one occasion he drove an officer to the HQ of the Blue Army and, without knowing it at the time, saw both Dwight Eisenhower and George Patton while there.
They had a problem with mosquitos and ticks, but one of the major problems was snake bites. It appeared that every other man was bitten at some point by a snake. Allen recalled that there were a lot of water moccasins. The platoon commanders carried a snakebit kit that was used to create a vacuum to suck the poison out of the bite. The bites were the result of the nights cooling down and snakes crawling under the soldiers’ bedrolls for warmth while the soldiers were sleeping on them.
There was one multicolored snake – about eight inches long – that was beautiful to look at, but if it bit a man he was dead. The good thing was that these snakes would not just strike at the man but only struck if the man forced himself on it. When the soldiers woke up in the morning they would carefully pick up their bedrolls to see if there were any snakes under them. To avoid being bitten, men slept on the two-and-a-half-ton trucks or on or in the tanks. Another trick the soldiers learned was to dig a small trench around their tents and lay rope in the trench. The burs on the rope kept the snakes from entering the tents. The snakes were not a problem if the night was warm.
They also had a problem with the wild hogs in the area. In the middle of the night while the men were sleeping in their tents they would suddenly hear hogs squealing. The hogs would run into the tents pushing on them until they took them down and dragged them away.
After the maneuvers, the 192nd Tank Battalion was ordered to report to Camp Polk, Louisiana, without having any idea why. On the side of a hill, the battalion members learned they were being sent overseas. Those men who were married or 29 years old, or older, were given a chance to be released from federal service. Many of the men received furloughs home to say their goodbyes to families and friends.
The reason for this move was an event that took place in the summer of 1941. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots, who was flying at a lower altitude – noticed something odd. He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and saw another in the distance. He came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line for 30 miles to the northwest, in the direction of a Japanese-occupied island that a large radio transmitter. The island was hundreds of miles away. The squadron continued its flight plan and flew south to Mariveles before returning to Clark Field. When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day. The next day, another squadron was sent to the area and found that the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat that was seen making its way to shore. Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was poor, the boat escaped. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
Many of the members of the battalion were given furloughs so that they could say goodbye to family and friends. The battalion’s new tanks which came from the 753rd Tank Battalion and the 3rd Armor Division were loaded onto flat cars, on different trains. At 8:30 A.M. on October 20, over different train routes, the companies were sent to San Francisco, California. Most of the soldiers of each company rode on one train that was followed by a second train that carried the company’s tanks. At the end of the second train was a boxcar followed by a passenger car that carried some soldiers. When they arrived, they were ferried, by the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island, they were given physicals by the battalion’s medical detachment. Men found to have minor health issues were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date. Other men were simply replaced. The soldiers spent their time putting cosmoline on anything that they thought would rust.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Gen. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27. Allen described the ship as being from WWI. 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. They 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, the transport, U.S.A.T. 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. Allen stated that the Louisville intercepted two Japanese freighters that were hauling American scrap metal. When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables. The soldiers were not allowed off the ship, but they were able to mail letters home before the ship sailed 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. One thing that was different about their arrival was that instead of a band and a welcoming committee waiting at the pier to tell them to enjoy their stay in the Philippines and see as much of the island as they could, a party came aboard the ship – carrying guns – and told the soldiers, “Draw your firearms immediately; we’re under alert. We expect a war with Japan at any moment. Your destination is Fort Stotsenburg, Clark Field.” At 3:00 P.M., as the enlisted men left the ship, a Marine was checking off their names. When someone said his name, the Marine responded with, “Hello sucker.” Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks with the help of 17th Ordnance.
Allen stated that as they worked Thanksgiving Dinner was being prepared for them on the ship, but they unloaded their equipment faster than expected, so they rode the train to Ft. Stotsenburg. At the fort, the tankers were met by Gen. Edward P. King, who welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed. He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to live in WWI tents. The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived. The members of C Company ate leftover beans from the 194th Tank Battalion since it was the only thing left from their dinner. If they had been a bit slower getting off the ship, they would have had a turkey dinner.
The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg. The tents from WW I and pretty ragged. They 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. Their tanks were in a field not far from the tanks. The worse part of being in the tents was that they were near the end of a runway. The B-17s when they took off flew right over the bivouac about 100 feet off the ground. At night, the men heard planes flying over the airfield. Many men believed they were Japanese, but it is known that American pilots flew night missions.
The day started at 5:15 with reveille and anyone who washed near a faucet with running water was considered lucky. At 6:00 A.M. they ate breakfast followed by work – on their tanks and other equipment – from 7:00 A.M. to 11:30 A.M. Lunch was from 11:30 A.M. to 1:30 P.M. when the soldiers returned to work until 2:30 P.M. The shorter afternoon work period was based on the belief that it was too hot to work in the climate. The term “recreation in the motor pool,” which came from the 194th Tank Battalion, meant they actually worked until 4:30 in the afternoon. Much of what the tankers did was clean the cosmoline out of their weapons and load ammunition belts. Not long after arriving in the Philippines, he lost his jeep because they were highly sought after by other units. He found himself riding a motorcycle.
For recreation, the soldiers spent their free time bowling or going to the movies on the base. They also played horseshoes, softball, badminton, or threw footballs around during their free time. On Wednesday afternoons, they went swimming. Men were given the opportunity to be allowed to go to Manila in small groups.
At Ft. Stotsenburg, the soldiers were expected to wear their dress uniforms. Since working on the tanks was a dirty job, the battalion members wore coveralls to do the work on the tanks. The 192nd followed the example of the 194th and wore coveralls in their barracks area to do work on their tanks, but if the soldiers left the battalion’s area, they wore dress uniforms including going to the PX. In addition, the khaki uniforms they had been issued also turned out to be a heavy material which made them uncomfortable to wear in the tropical heat.
On Monday, December 1, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers. The 194th guarded the northern end of the airfield, while the 192nd guarded the southern end where the two runways came together and formed a V. Two members of every tank crew remained with their tanks at all times, and meals were brought to them by food trucks. On Sunday, December 7, the tankers spent a great deal of the day loading bullets into machine gun belts and putting live shells for the tanks’ main guns into the tanks.
It was the men manning the radios in the 192nd’s communications tent who were the first to learn of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 8. Major Ted Wickord, the battalion’s commanding officer, Gen. James Weaver, and Major Ernest Miller, the CO of the 194th Tank Battalion, read the messages of the attack. The officers of the 192nd were called to the tent and informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. At six in the morning on December 8, the officers of the battalion were called to the radio room at the fort. They were ordered to bring the tank crews up to full strength at the perimeter of Clark Field. It was at this time that the battalion’s half-tracks took up positions around the airfield with the tanks.
Allen stated that it was about 6:30 in the morning and he had just showered when he overheard a radio broadcast in a temporary barracks for the officers that Pearl Harbor had been attacked by the Japanese and that a lot of damage had been done and there was a large number of casualties. The one thing that he and the other men did not hear was the damage that was done to the Navy at the base; it was months before they learned how many battleships had been sunk and never got the entire story of the attack.
On the morning of the 8th, the tankers watched as the sky was filled with American planes. It was said that no matter in what direction a man looked planes could be seen. The soldiers once again spent much of this time loading bullets into machine gun belts. At noon, the planes landed to be refueled and were lined up in a straight line outside the pilots’ mess hall to be serviced. While the refueling was taking place, the pilots went to lunch and the pursuit fighters were lined up in a straight line to make it easier to refuel them. At 12:45, the tankers watched as 54 planes approached the airfield from the north. As they watched, they saw “raindrops” falling from the planes. With the thunderous explosions of the bombs exploding on the runways, the tankers knew that the planes were Japanese. The smoke and dust from the bombs blotted out the sun and made it impossible for the tankers to see more than a few feet. The members of the company not assigned to tanks took cover in a dried-up latrine near their bivouac. The first thing the bombers took out was the control tower and radio station cutting off all power and communication and then the hangers, barracks, and mess halls were hit. One bomb hit the mess hall where the pilots were eating.
Of this, he said, “The air corps ordered all planes into the air to avoid heavy ground loss. Then just before noon, someone ordered all the planes down again and we were told there would be no attack. The next thing we knew, 54 Jap bombers with fighter escort were over the field. Most of the crews were killed in the planes before they got off the ground and most of the planes were ruined.”
The bombers were quickly followed by Japanese fighters that sounded like angry bees to the tankers as they strafed the airfield. The B17s were lined up on the runways fully fueled and loaded awaiting the order to bomb Formosa. The fighters went after them. The tankers watched as American pilots attempted to get their P-40s off the ground. As they roared down the runway, Japanese fighters strafed the planes causing them to swerve, crash, and burn. Those that did get airborne were barely off the ground when they were hit. The planes exploded and crashed to the ground tumbling down the runways. The few planes that did make it into the air could do little against the onslaught of Japanese planes. The Japanese planes flew as low as 50 feet above the ground and the pilots would lean out of the cockpits so they could more accurately pick out targets to strafe. The tankers said they saw the pilots’ scarfs flapping in the wind.
While the attack was going on, the Filipinos who were building the 192nd’s barracks took cover. After the attack, they went right back to work on the barracks. This happened several times during the following air raids until the barracks were destroyed by bombs during an air raid. According to the members of the battalion, it appeared the Filipino contractor really wanted to be paid; war or no war.
When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield. The soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything that could carry the wounded was in use and the road to the hospital was covered with blood. When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building. Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
That night most, if not all, the tankers slept in the dried latrine since many of their tents were riddled with bullet holes. They believed sleeping in the open was the wiser choice. The next morning the decision was made to move the battalion into a tree-covered area. Those men not assigned to a tank or half-track walked around Clark Field to look at the damage. As they walked, they saw mangled bodies lying on the ground and the bodies of pilots who had been caught asleep in their tents because they had flown night missions the night before. Others were pilots who had been killed attempting to get to their planes. The tanks were still at the southern end of the airfield when a second air raid took place on the 10th. This time the bombs fell among the tanks of the battalion at the southern end of the airfield wounding some men.
It was then that both he and Weaver took cover. He remembered that some of the bombs hit barracks. Zeros followed and strafed the airfield and Ft. Stotsenburg. They put the dead on bomb carts and took them to the morgue. Arms and legs were hanging out and the road was covered in blood.
During the attack, the white uniforms for the battalion’s officers were being delivered. The driver backed the truck up and dumped the bundle of uniforms on the ground and left them there. They remained on the ground throughout the attack and as far as he knew they never were picked up. Allen recalled that Weaver was near him and told him he was out of uniform. Allen was scared to death and thought Weaver was nuts. He realized that Weaver was trying to calm him down. Albert next sought cover in a tank. Somehow he and nine other men managed to fit inside the crew compartment. He thought that an accomplishment since the compartment was pretty much full with a four men crew. A lot of remarks were made and a lot of praying took place inside the tank.
He left the tank and got on his motorcycle and a Zero was strafing him. The bullets were getting closer. He was on a dirt runway and did a “power turn” by putting his foot down. He had never done one before and took off in another direction while the Zero went the other way. He believed it was at that moment he had learned to ride a motorcycle. After the attack, he saw men bleeding which was a shock to him. One of the dead was a colonel. It made him realize they were in this together and rank did not protect anyone from dying.
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. That night the tankers slept with their tanks or half-tracks. Those not in a tank or half-track crew slept outside away from their tents.
Of that night, he said, “That was a pretty gloomy night after the attack. The airmen who survived took to the hills. Their planes were gone and most of their ammunition. We had no casualties in our outfit (there was one casualty) although we were all ready for a parachute attack. But the 194th tankers took a heavy blow. They were ordered to surround the field when the attack came and the bombs caught them.”
B and C Companies of the battalion remained at the airfield, while A Company was sent to the barrio of Dau. On the 10th and 13th, the tankers lived through two more attacks on the field. They finally received orders on December 15 and moved ten miles north of the airfield. On December 21 the two companies were ordered to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf where the Japanese were landing troops.
After the Japanese landed troops on Luzon, Albert went on several reconnaissance missions with General Jonathan Wainwright. During these missions, Albert drove the general’s staff car to the front lines. Albert recalled often sharing soggy biscuits for lunch with Wainwright.
During the Battle of Bataan, Albert directed reconnaissance missions against the Japanese. His recon crew’s job was to supply information to Headquarters on terrain and routes that the Japanese were using. 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 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 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.
On December 27, 1941, Albert was dispatched from a forward command post with a message for the commanding officer of C Company. While attempting to deliver the message, he was spotted by a Japanese plane. The pilot strafed him in an attempt to kill him. Both tires of his motorcycle were shot out and his oil tank was hit. Making his way on foot, Albert was next ambushed by the Japanese and wounded. In spite of his wounds, he continued his fight and was successful in delivering the message.
He said, “It was a pretty feeble fight. The Japs did the attacking. We didn’t have much left to fight with.”
At Cabu, seven tanks of the C Company fought a three-hour battle with the Japanese. The main Japanese line was south of Saint Rosa Bridge ten miles to the south of the battle. The tanks were hidden in brush as Japanese troops passed them for three hours without knowing that they were there. While the troops passed, Lt. William Gentry was on his radio describing what he was seeing. It was only when a Japanese soldier tried to take a shortcut through the brush, that his tank was hidden in, that the tanks were discovered. The tanks turned on their sirens and opened up on the Japanese.
During the Battle for the Philippines, Albert was a witness to one of the first tank battles of the war. C Company tanks were given the job to keep a road open in the Bulacan Province. While doing this job, the tanks defeated Japanese tanks which allowed American supply trucks to bring needed supplies into Bataan.
One of the memories of fighting the Japanese which stayed with Albert his entire life was the courage of the 26th U.S. Calvary of Filipino Scouts. Albert recalled that these soldiers went into combat against Japanese tanks knowing that in all likelihood they would die. On several occasions, he watched the Filipino Scouts withdrawing from a battle with both men and horses shot up by Japanese tanks.
In his opinion, the biggest problem they had at first was coordinating the infantry and the tanks. He did state that as they fought on, they became very good at working together. Another problem was that rumors sent him and other scouts on many a goose chase. He recalled one rumor that American troops were landing off the coast of Bataan. When he got to the location all he saw was an open sea.
The tanks were also restricted to the roads. Allen stated that the first time a tank attempted to cross a rice paddy, the surface gave way and it was stuck in the mud. 17th Ordnance was able to pull the tank out of the paddy. In addition, none of the tank crews had ever fired the 37-millimeter main gun. They learned quickly there was a system to fire it. The turret had to be in the right position, it had been loaded and aimed correctly with the periscope. They were also faced with limited fuel supplies and they were always told not to move unless ordered to do so to save fuel.
Allen recalled that he was on his motorcycle talking to some Filipino Scouts who were on their horses. Suddenly, he heard what he said was a “whack” sound. The man fell over bleeding from his face. He heard the whacking sound a few more times and a couple of horses went down. This was the first time he saw someone die in combat. He believed they were shot at because the horses made them easier to see than he was.
On January 1, conflicting orders were received by the defenders who were attempting to stop the Japanese who were advancing down Route 5. Doing this would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan. General Wainwright was unaware of the conflicting 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. 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 could escape. At 2:30 A.M., the night of January 5, the Japanese attacked Remedios in force and used 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.
On the night of January 6, the tanks withdrew into the peninsula with the 192nd holding its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leapfrog past it, cross the bridge, and then cover the 192nd’s withdrawal over the bridge. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan before the engineers blew up the bridge at 6:00 A.M. The next day, the battalion was between Culo and Hermosa and assigned a road to enter Bataan 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.
A composite tank company was formed, the next day, under the command of Capt. Donald Hanes, B Co., 192nd. Its job was to protect the East Coast Road north of Hermosa open and to stop Japanese tanks from attempting to use it to overrun the next defensive line that was forming. While in this position, the tanks were under constant enemy artillery fire. The rest of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of the Abucay-Hacienda Road. When word came that a bridge was going to be blown, 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 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 the guns 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 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, the tanks received the required maintenance, and ammunition was issued. Most of the tank tracks had worn down to bare metal and the radial engines were long past their 400-hour overhauls. The tanks were sent back into action as they became available.
Around this time, drivers were needed for the Self Propelled Mounts, and tank drivers were reassigned to the SPMs. The SPMs had a crew of an American driver, a Filipino Scout sergeant who commanded the SPM, and a gun crew from the Philippine Army. The drivers were replaced by other members of the battalions who could drive tanks.
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.”
On January 24, the tank battalions were ordered to cover all forces withdrawing to the Pilar-Bigac Line. The 192nd covered the withdrawal in the Abucay area. The battalions prevented the Japanese from overrunning the position and cutting off the withdrawing troops. The battalions were sent to cover the junctions of the Back Road and East Road with the Abucay-Hacienda 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 column of trucks that were loading the troops. The tanks provided heavy fire so that the infantry could withdraw and inflicted heavy losses on the Japanese.
Later on January 25, both the 192nd and 194th held a defensive line on the Balanga-Cardre-BaniBani Roads until the withdrawal was completed at midnight. They held the position until the night of January 26, 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 supposed 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.
On the morning of January 27, a new battle line had been formed and all units were supposed to be beyond it. That morning, the tanks were still holding their position six hours after they were supposed to have withdrawn. While holding the position, the tanks, with self-propelled mounts, ambushed, at point-blank range, three Japanese units causing 50 percent casualties.
The tank battalions, on January 28, 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. The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
While doing this job, the members of B Company noticed that each morning when the PT boats were off the coast they were attacked by Japanese Zeros. The tank crews made arrangements with the PT boats at a certain place at a certain time. The Zeros arrived and attacked. This time they were met by fire from the 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.
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.
Part of the battalion took part in the Battle of the Points from January 27, 1942, until February 13, 1942. The Japanese had landed on two points and been cut off. The tankers were sent in to wipe out these positions. According to Capt. Alvin Poweleit, the battalion’s surgeon, the tanks did a great deal of damage.
At the same time, there was another battle taking place known as the Battle of the Pockets which lasted from January 23 until February 17, 1942. Japanese troops had been caught off behind the battle line. Tanks from B and C Companies were sent in to wipe out the Japanese in the Big Pocket.
The Japanese landed troops but ended up trapped. When they attempted to land reinforcements, they landed in the wrong place. One was the Lapay-Longoskawayan points from January 23 to 29, the Quinauan-Aglaloma points from January 22 to February 8, and the Sililam-Anyasan points from January 27 to February 13. 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, so he requested tanks from the Provisional Tank Group.
On February 2, tank platoons from A and C Companies were ordered to Anyasan and Quinauan Points where the Japanese had landed troops. The tanks arrived at about 5:15 P.M. The C Company tank platoon commander 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 Japanese, also in January, also launched an attack against the Orion-Bagac Line, but the advance was pushed back leaving two pockets of Japanese soldiers trapped behind the restored defensive line. The two pockets became known as Big Pocket and Little Pocket and tanks were sent in to help exterminate the pockets. The battle took place at the same time as the Battle of the Points and lasted from January 23 to February 17.
The tanks entered the pockets one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket. Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank that had been relieved exited the pocket. Doing this was so stressful that the tank companies were pulled out and rested. The tanks of the company were replaced by the tanks of another company that had been held in reserve.
In the pockets, two methods were used to wipe out the Japanese. The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank. As the tank approached, the Japanese dove into the foxholes, and the tank went over the foxholes. As the tank passed over a 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 dragging the unpowered track and grinding its way down into the foxhole. The tankers slept upwind of their tanks because of the rotting flesh in them.
The Japanese sent soldiers, with cans of gasoline, against the tanks who 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 the 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. 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.
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 the pockets, C Company lost one tank that had gone beyond the area controlled by the defenders. The tank was disabled by a thermite mine. It appeared that some of the crew were killed by a hand grenade thrown into the tank as they attempted to evacuate it. When the tank was recovered, it was put on its side and it was found at least one member of the crew was still alive as the Japanese filled the tank with dirt from the foxhole they dug under it.
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 and died from his wounds or was killed. It appears that this tank was also recovered. It was for their performance during this battle that the 192nd Tank Battalion would receive one of its Distinguished Unit Citations.
Companies A and 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 offshore.
The tanks were given the job of protecting the 155-millimeter howitzers that the Army used in batteries of six guns. The guns were mobile and could be hooked up to the tanks with a special vehicle and moved to another location. It was recalled that moving them took preparation and setting them up also took preparation. The tankers didn’t like this duty because the guns attracted Japanese fire. Whenever the guns started firing, the Japanese would send up Recon Joe to try to locate them. Shortly after this happened, the dive bombers came in and peppered the hell out of the position.
The Americans quickly learned that the strafing of the batteries could be prevented if the guns were set up on a temporary basis and fired as much as possible before being quickly moved to another position before the Japanese found them. The result of this was the damage done to the Japanese was limited, but it improved the defenders’ morale since it caused havoc with the Japanese who never knew where the guns were located.
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. They would have been more successful at getting the Americans to surrender if the picture had been a hamburger since the men were so hungry that they most likely would have surrendered for a good meal.
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 company’s last bivouac area was about twelve kilometers north of Marivales and looking out on the China Sea. By this point, the tankers knew that there was no help on the way. Many had listened to Secretary of War Harry L. Stimson on short wave. When asked about the Philippines, he said, “There are times when men must die.” The soldiers cursed in response because they knew that the Philippines had already been lost.
On April 3, 1942, the Japanese launched an attack 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 down 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.
It was the evening of April 8 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 against the Japanese in an attempt to stop the advance. At 6:00 P.M. the tank battalion commanders received this order: “You will make plans, to be communicated to company commanders only, and be prepared to destroy within one hour after receipt by radio, or other means, of the word ‘CRASH’, all tanks and combat vehicles, arms, ammunition, gas, and radios: reserving sufficient trucks to close to rear echelons as soon as accomplished.”
It was at 10:00 P.M. that the decision was made to send a jeep – under a white flag – behind enemy lines to negotiate terms of surrender. The problem soon became that no white cloth could be found. Phil Parish, a truck driver for A Company realized that he had bedding buried in the back of his truck and searched for it. The bedding became the “white flags” that were flown on the jeeps. At 11:40 P.M., the ammunition dumps were destroyed, and at midnight Companies B and D, and A Co., 194th, received an order from Gen. Weaver to stand down. At 2:oo A.M. April 9, Gen. King sent a jeep under a white flag carrying Colonel Everett C. Williams, Col. James V. Collier, and Major Marshall Hurt to meet with the Japanese commander about terms of surrender. (The driver was from the tank group.)
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.” The tank crews circled their tanks. Each tank fired an armor-piercing shell into the engine of the tank in front of it and opened the gasoline cocks inside the tank compartments and dropped hand grenades into the tanks. Most of the company waited in their bivouac for the Japanese to make contact, while others attempted to reach Corregidor which had not surrendered.
As Gen. King left to negotiate the surrender, he went through the area held by B Company and 17th Ordnance and spoke to the men. He said to them, “Boys. I’m going to get us the best deal I can.” He also said, “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. They were followed by another jeep – 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.
About 10:00 A.M. the jeeps reached Lamao where they were received by a Japanese Major General who informed King that he reported his coming to negotiate a surrender and that an officer from 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 arrived from their headquarters and the Japanese attack resumed. King sent Col. Collier and Maj. Hunt back to his command with instructions that any unit in line with 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 April 9, 1942, Albert became a Prisoner of War when Filipino and American Forces on Bataan were surrendered to the Japanese. After the surrender, he and the other members of C Company made their way to Mariveles. It was from there that he started what became known as the Death March.
Before they started the march, Albert recalled that the POWs were stripped of everything except their clothing and canteens of water. On the march, Albert recalled that the Japanese enjoyed making the Americans do double time in 110-degree heat. He believed that this was done to cause the weaker POWs to fallout. When they did, they killed them as examples to the healthier prisoners. In recalling the march, he said:
“The worst part of the death march was being compelled to sit all day in the open field with the tropical sun beating down upon our unprotected heads and bodies.
The total mileage would not have been difficult. But we were permitted to go only a few miles during the day. and we would spend most of the time in some field at the mercy of the hot Philippine sun. There was little food or water.
At night we would not be permitted to rest for any length of time. Frequently we were moved as many as a dozen times, and many times we would end up in the same place from which we started. Once one of our boys slept through all of these movings, and in the morning he found himself with his original outfit not knowing it had been moved a half a dozen fields during the night.
We were told by the Japanese that the lowest Japanese enlisted man was better than our four-star generals. One night I came into a field where our men were resting very close together and wormed myself down between two men who grumbled considerably on being moved and pushed about. The next morning I discovered that I had slept between two generals.”
Not too long after starting the march from Mariveles, Albert realized that he and the other POWs were in trouble. From the very beginning, the Japanese soldiers abused the POWs. In his own words, “We thought Bataan was hell, we had no idea of the hell that was ahead of us.”
Albert recalled that the Filipino people attempted to throw rice to the POWs as they marched past them. They would make balls out of the rice and throw them to the men hoping they would catch them. Most of the rice balls fell to the ground. He recalled that a Filipino boy had two of his fingers cut off by a Japanese guard after the boy had thrown food to them.
As it turned out, this was the only food or water any of the men in Albert’s group saw for days. Albert recalled that at one point, he and the other POWs were allowed to drink water from a stream. They later learned that upstream from the road, the stream was filled with the bodies of dead POWs and animals. He and the other men who had drunk the water came down with dysentery.
In recalling the march Albert said, ” You get almost used to seeing the dead men along the road on the march, seeing them shot, and die of hunger and thirst.”
At one point, a Japanese guard noticed Albert’s high school ring. He motioned for Albert to take the ring off. When Albert had difficulty removing the ring, the guard nearly tore his finger off to get it. The guard bit the ring and discovered that it was not gold. He then threw the ring on the ground and dug it into the ground with the heel of his boot. As the guard turned away, Albert bent down to pick the ring up. Through the corner of his eye, the guard caught him doing this. The guard turned around and hit Albert with his rifle butt. The guard then buried the ring in the ground with his boot heel.
At some point on the march, Albert was struck by a Japanese truck injuring his ankle. Having a hard time walking, Albert fell further and further behind his column until Albert sat down alongside the road. “While I was sitting by the side of the road nursing a badly ranched ankle a Japanese soldier, hurrying his captives on, bayoneted two of my companions. It didn’t take me long to get about 50 yards from the vicinity even with a bad ankle. At the next stop, I suffered sunstroke and was unconscious for a time. A Japanese soldier gave me some goat’s milk and told me that the next Jap down the line would take care of me. He was the one who had bayoneted the two soldiers, so I moved on.”
At one point on the march, Albert noticed that on the road there was something that popped up and fell back down as trucks ran over it. When he got closer, he realized from its shape that it was the flattened body of a POW. The body had dried out and was like a piece of wood. Each time a truck rode over it, It popped up and fell back down.
Allen developed dysentery while on the march. He hid behind some pushes and passed out. He felt something polking him. It was a young Japanese soldier. Allen didn’t care if the man bayoneted him. The guard gave him his canteen with sour goats milk. He gave the canteen back and told him to move on. He got to a Filipino hut and found an American colonel and got him some water. The next day, he saw the colonel laying on rocks on a riverbank while he crossed a bridge.
Some Filipinos were passing by in an old school bus with straw on it. When they saw him and knew he was an American, they put him on the bus, covered him with straw, and drove him for fifteen miles before they told him to get off because they were nearing Japanese soldiers. The soldiers were separating the Americans from the Filipino.
A Japanese general pulled up in the car and asked him in very good English what he was doing. The general had a soldier put a piece of burlap on the seat of the car and had his driver drive him to San Fernando. As the car approached Japanese soldiers would yell out that an officer was approaching. Since they could not really see inside the car, he saluted them. It turned out the car had an orange general’s flag on it. The driver of the car thought the situation was funny and smelled at Allen. When they got near San Fernando, Allen was pulled out of the car by the sergeant who did not find it amusing and he hit the driver. He also roughed Allen up.
On his ninth day on the march, Albert reached San Fernando. He remained there for two days waiting for a train. During this time, he and the other men were held in a pen. At night they slept in human waste. During this time, Albert traded his underwear with another GI for penicillin pills because he was running a fever. He believed that the pills saved his life.
The POWs were ordered to form detachments of 100 men and marched to the train station. There, they were packed into small wooden boxcars that were used to haul sugarcane. The cars were about thirteen feet long and ten feet wide and known as “forty or eights” since each car could hold forty men or eight horses. Since the detachments had 100 men in them, the Japanese put 100 men into each boxcar and closed the doors. Since the POWs were packed in so tightly, men suffocated from the lack of air but could not fall to the floors since there was no room to fall. At Capas, the living left the boxcars and the dead fell to the floors as they left the boxcars and walked the eight kilometers to Camp O’Donnell which was an unfinished Filipino Army Training Base that the Japanese pressed into use as a POW camp on April 1, 1942.
Allen recalled that the smell and heat in the car were oppressive. Men who died slowly slid down to the floor. Other men screamed in agony. Being near the door, he was able to get air, but those in the corner of the car usually died.
At Capas, Allen and the surviving POWs walked the last seven miles to Camp O’Donnell. The POWs walked the last eight kilometers to Camp O’Donnell which was an unfinished Filipino Army Training Base. The Japanese pressed the camp into use as a POW camp on April 1, 1942. 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.
At this time, a captain from headquarters fell. He was bayoneted before he could get up. Upon arriving at the camp, the POWs had to listen to the camp’s commander lecture them.
Albert recalled, “About 5,000 of us were lined up on the field beneath a boiling sun. We were hungry and thirsty. The Jap captain talked to for two hours from a shelter. When he was through about two-thirds of the men had collapsed. I was one of them.”
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 was often done so the Japanese could bathe and wanted more water. 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. This situation improved when a second faucet was added by the POWs who found the piping and dug the trench for the waterline. When the Japanese turned the water off, the POWs had the ability to turn it back on again without the Japanese knowing.
There was not enough housing for the POWs and most slept under buildings or on the ground. The barracks were designed for 40 men but those who did sleep in one slept with as many as 80 to 120 men. Those who did not sleep in a barracks slept under them. 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 in 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, 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 own 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.
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.
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.
Life in the camp was not easy for the POWs. On May 6, Albert went out on a work detail to rebuild the bridges that the Americans had destroyed as they retreated. Albert went out on the bridge building detail to Las Pinas. When the detail ended, he was sent to Cabanatuan which had opened while he was on the work detail. Albert believed that this new camp at Cabanatuan was not much better than Camp O’Donnell.
In describing Cabanatuan, he said, “Cabanatuan was the worst, though. Men died by the hundreds there, and the graves made you sick. Some of the men that the Japs buried weren’t dead yet, but they were probably so far gone that they never knew it. There wasn’t anything that you could do. Medical supplies were nil, and everyone was too weak to care much.”
It should be mentioned that while he was on the detail his parents received two messages from the War Department. The first arrived in May or early June.
“Dear Mrs. B. Allen:
“The records of the War Department show your son, Sergeant Albert L. Allen Jr., 35,001,458, Infantry, missing in action in the Philippine Islands since May 7, 1942.
“All available information concerning your son has been carefully considered and under the provisions of Public Law 490, 77th Congress, as amended, an official determination has been made continuing him on the records of the War Department in a missing status. The law sited provides that pay and allowances are to be credited to the missing person’s account and payment of allotments to authorized allottees are to be continued during the absence of such persons in a missing status.
“I fully appreciate your concern and deep interest. You will, without further request on your part, receive immediate notification of any change in your son’s status. I regret that the far-flung operations of the present war, the ebb and flow of the combat over the great distances in isolated areas, and the characteristics of our enemies impose on us the heavy burden of uncertainty with respect to the safety of our loved ones.
“Very Truly Yours,
“J. A. Ulio
The Adjutant General
In July 1942, his family received a second letter from the War Department. The following is an excerpt from it.
“The last report of casualties received by the War Department from the Philippines arrived early in the morning of May 6. Through this date, Sergeant Allen L. Allen Jr. had not been reported as a casualty. The War Department will consider the persons serving in the Philippine Islands as “missing in action” from the date of the surrender of Corregidor, May 7, until definite information to the contrary is received.
“Efforts to secure prisoner of war lists from the Philippines have not been successful to this date due to the lack of communication and the fact that the Japanese Government has not yet given permission for the Swiss representative and the International Red Cross delegates to make visits to prisoner of war camps in the islands. When the lists of prisoners are received, we will clear the name of your son and send you any additional information that we may have.”
On June 1, 1942, the POWs formed detachments of 100 men each and were marched to Capas. There, they 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 formerly known at Camp Pangatian.
The camp was actually three camps. Camp 1 was where the men who were captured on Bataan and took part in the death march were 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 surrendered were taken and it was later consolidated into Camp 1. Once in the camp, the POWs were allowed to run the camp. The Japanese only entered the camp if they had an issue they wanted to deal with. In early June, four POWs escaped and were recaptured. They were brought back to the camp and tied to posts and beaten. After three days they were cut loose from the posts and made to dig their own graves. They stood in graves facing a Japanese firing squad and were shot. After they had been shot, a Japanese officer used his pistol and fired a shot into each grave.
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. Many quickly became ill. The POWs were assigned to barracks and divided into groups of ten men. This meant that the members of their group lived together, went out on work details together, and would be executed together since they were Blood Brothers. 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 a while, they received bread. If they received fish it was rotten and covered with maggots.
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 heads.
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.
In the camp, the prisoners continued to die, but at a slower rate. 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. 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 they could relieve themselves. Most of those who entered the ward died. When a POW died, the POWs stripped him of his clothing and the man would be buried naked. The dead man’s clothing would be washed in boiling water and given to a prisoner in need of clothing. The Japanese put a fence up around the building to protect themselves and would not go into the area.
From available information, it appears Albert remained at Cabanatuan until October 1942, when Albert was selected to be used as a slave laborer to aid the Japanese war effort. 800 POWs gathered at 2:00 A.M. on October 6 and were given rice coffee, lugou rice (a rice porridge), and a big rice ball. After eating and packing their kits, the POWs marched out of the camp at 2:30 A.M. and received two buns as they marched through the gate to the barrio of Cabanatuan which they reached at 6:00 A.M. There, 50 men were boarded onto each of the small wooden boxcars waiting for them at about 9:00 A.M. The trip to Manila lasted until 4:00 P.M. and because of the heat in the cars, many POWs passed out.
From the train station, the men were marched to pier 5 in the Port Area of Manila. Some of the Filipinos flashed the “V” for victory sign as they made their war to the pier. The detachment, arrived at 5:00 P.M, tired and hungry, and was put in a warehouse on the pier. The Japanese fed them rice and salted fish and let them eat as much as they wanted. They also were allowed to wash.
Before boarding the Tottori Maru on October 7, the prisoners were divided into two groups. One group was placed in the holds while the other group remained on deck. The conditions on the ship, for those in the holds, were indescribable, and those POWs on deck were better off. This situation was made worse by the fact that for the first two weeks of the voyage the prisoners were not fed, which resulted in many of the POWs dying during the trip.
The ship did not sail until the next day at 10:00 A.M. and passed the ruins of Corregidor at noon. In addition, there were sick Japanese and soldiers on the ship. That night some POWs slept in the holds, but a large number slept on the deck. On the first day, the POWs were given three small loaves of bread for meals – which equaled one American loaf of bread – the loaves were supposed to last two days, but most men ate them in one meal. The men did ration their water.
The ship was at sea when two torpedoes fired at by an American submarine missed the ship. The ship fired a couple of shots where it thought the sub was, but these also missed. A while later, the ship passed a mine that had been laid by the submarine. The POWs were fed bags of buns biscuits, with some candy, and received water daily.
The ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, on October 11. Since most were sick with something, the line to use the latrines went around the ship. The American doctors had no medicine to help the sick, and some were seen as benefiting from the sick. It was at this time that the POWs on the ship, from Mindanao, were moved to a second hold putting 500 POWs in each hold.
On October 14, foodstuffs were loaded onto the ship, and each POW got two candy bags of hardtack and one meal of rice and soup each day. The ship sailed on October 16 at 7:30 A.M. but turned around at 3:30 P.M. arriving back at Takao at 10:30 P.M. It was believed the ship had turned around because American submarines were in the area.
The ship sailed again on October 18 and arrived at the Pescadores Islands at 5:00 P.M. There it dropped anchor off the Island of Mako, Pescadores Islands, where it remained anchored until October 27 when it returned to Takao. During this time the quality of food deteriorated and was barely edible. Two POWs also died and their bodies were thrown into the sea at 4:00 P.M. The ship sailed again on October 27 and returned to Takao the same day. While it was docked foodstuffs were again loaded onto the ship.
The next day, the POWs were taken ashore and bathed with seawater at the same time the ship was cleaned. They were again put into the holds and the ship and remained there until the ship sailed on October 29. At 5:00 P.M. it again arrived at Mako, Pescadores Islands. During this time the POWs were fed two meals a day of rice and soup. The ship sailed on October 31, as part of a seven-ship convoy. During this part of the voyage, it rode out a typhoon for five days on its way to Fusan, Korea. On November 3, three more POWs died. On November 5, one of the ships was sunk by an American submarine and the other ships scattered.
The Tottori Maru arrived at Fusan on November 7, but the 1400 POWs leaving the ship did not disembark until November 8 and were issued fur-lined overcoats and new clothing. Those POWs who were too ill to continue the trip to Mukden, Manchuria, remained behind at Fusan.
Those who died were cremated and had their ashes placed in small white boxes that were sent to Mukden. Recalling the train ride, Allen said, “When we got there it was 40 below and we lost over 200 men the first winter. I contracted pneumonia in February 1943, and because of an American doctor in our tank battalion, was the first patient to pull through.” Why Albert pulled through was because the doctor stole medicine to save his life.
When the POWs first got to the camp, they lived in dugouts until two-story brick barracks were opened. Each enlisted man received two thin blankets to cover himself at night, while officers got one blanket and a mattress. The barracks were divided into ten sections. Five on the ground floor and five on the second story. Each section was divided into four double-decked sleeping bays each holding 8 men for a total of 48 men in a section. In addition, the barracks had electricity and cold running water.
The camp was a model camp and used to make propaganda movies for the Japanese public. During one visit by Japanese big shots, Albert remembered receiving meat in the soup served to him, but the reality was that the daily meals consisted of cornmeal mush, beans, and a bun for breakfast, maize, and beans for lunch, and dinner was beans and a bun. To supplement their meals, the men made snares to capture stray dogs that came into the camp. They did this until, one day while marching to work, they saw one of the dogs eating the body of a dead Chinese.
One night, the POWs were forced out of their barracks into the cold and snow and made to strip bare while the Japanese searched for contraband cigarettes that the prisoners had bought from the Chinese while working in the factories. They were made to stand in the snow barefooted, for 45 minutes, while the Japanese searched 700 POWs from the barracks.
Punishments were given for any infraction. Two POWs were knocked out and kicked in the ribs for violating a camp rule. At other times, the camp’s food ration was cut in half because the Japanese believed a POW was not working as hard as he should have been, or someone had been caught smoking in an unauthorized area. They would also withhold Red Cross packages. When three POWs escaped and were recaptured, they were brought back to the camp and beaten on their heads, backs, and shoulders. When POWs violated a rule, the entire camp had to stand in the cold for hours. In the morning they did not get breakfast.
One Japanese, Eiichi Nada, who was born, raised, and educated in Berkley, California, loved to hit the POWs while they stood at attention during morning assembly. He hit them until they fell to the ground and then kicked them while yelling, “Get up, you yellow, white, son of a bitch!”
The POWs worked either at a machine shop or a sawmill from 7:30 A.M. until 5:30 or 6:00 P.M. each day. The machine shop never produced anything that was useful to the Japanese. Each morning, the POWs were marched three miles to the shop where they worked manufacturing weapons for the Japanese.
On June 24, 1943, his name appeared on an official list of men reported by the Japanese Government through the International Red Cross to be prisoners of war. Several weeks earlier, his parents received a telegram from the War Department.
“REPORT JUST RECEIVED THROUGH THE INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS STATES THAT YOUR SON, SERGEANT ALBERT A ALLEN JR IS A PRISONER OF WAR OF THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT IN MUKDEN MANCHURIA LETTER OF INFORMATION FOLLOWS FROM THE PROVOST MARSHALL GENERAL=
ULIO THE ADJUTANT GENERAL=
A week or so after this notification, they received a letter from the War Department.
“Mrs. Beulah Allen
21 Linden Road
“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:
“Sgt. Albert L. Allen Jr., 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.
Howard F. Bresee
Chief Information Bureau”
It was while Albert was in this camp that his parents received a message from him through short-wave radio operators. The operators had picked up a message that Albert was allowed to broadcast by the Japanese. This was the first news that they had that he was alive. In the radio broadcast he said:
“Dear Folks. May this short message finds you both well and waiting for the day we will be together again. As the summer comes to a close my thoughts of home become stronger. This along with your wonderful letters make me feel the future will be happier and richer time of our lives than ever before. I am feeling fine and full of pep except for being a bit lonely. I’m sure that things there are well. Be sure to say hello to all my friends and let them know I have them on my mind always. That has helped me along while I am away, so be sure I will always remember them.
God bless you all and keep your chins up. All my love. Albert.”
At one point, four POWs escaped from the camp and made their way to the Russian border. They were recaptured because Chinese peasants turned them over to the Japanese. The men were returned to the camp and put in cells until they were taken to a cemetery and shot.
In December 1944, Manchuria came within the range of American B-29’s. Albert recalled the first air raid. During the raid, the camp was hit by bombs resulting in several POWs being killed. One of the planes was shot down and the crew captured. When the crew was asked by the POWs why they had bombed the camp, the response, according to Albert, they gave was, “The camp was right in line with a string of Jap ammunition dumps, and the fellow said that their bomb bay doors had jammed on them and they couldn’t help it.”
Albert also stated that he was wounded in the wrist by shrapnel from a bomb. His wrist carried a small scar from where the shrapnel burnt into the skin. In recalling the incident Allen said, “That was funny, my glove burnt off when the shrapnel hit me, but I wouldn’t take anything for that piece of metal.”
According to Albert, the camp was extremely isolated. ” We had no idea that the war had ended – not even the Japs knew it. Even with the rumors, we didn’t know for certain until the 19th when the Russians moved into the camp and relieved the Japanese of their guns.”
Of the event he said. “At noon we thought something was up. The Japs called us from the factory and the air raid sirens went off. We thought there was an air raid nearby.
“When we got back to the camp, we saw they were cooking extra food. We found out that the generals and colonels in the camp were going to be forced marched to the mountains. That worried us because we thought we would be moved too. It was a long distance to the mountains and the Japs were giving only a baked potato and a small piece of bread to the officers for their marching rations.
“The rumors were strong that the Russians were moving toward Mukden and that the Americans were moving through China. Everyone was pretty excited. No one knew the war was over, but we had rumors that the Russians had declared war on Japan.”
Of the belief that the Russians were approaching the camp, he said, “It seemed to make them (the Japanese) meaner when they heard the Russians were coming. They dug gun emplacements all around the field. Excitement was really running high that day.”
Three OSS members parachuted into the camp. Of this, he said, “One was an American-Japanese and the other three were American-Chinese.”
In his opinion, ” The Russians thought the world of the Americans. They couldn’t do enough for us, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget them.”
Albert described what it was like when American B-29s began dropping food to the POWs. “They flew so low that we could almost shake hands with them. They even took off some of the chimneys on our barracks and we were sorry that we had filled in our fox holes. The whole place was littered with everything from fruit cocktail to vegetables, but were we ever glad to see them.”
In the first letter he wrote to his parents after being liberated, Albert said,
“It’s over and we’re coming home soon. For 45 months we waited and put up with a lot, especially with the 44-month enlistment (forced draft) into the Imperial Army of the Nip.
“We’ve been we look a lot older and tired looking, but I assure you a little State-side chow will do a lot. Have no gray hairs as some do. I can use a little more weight, but that’s natural. When I wrote my first card to you, sometime in March of 1943, I was just beginning to recover from pneumonia, my only serious illness.
“The first time I received mail from you was on January 20, 1944. Your mail was all from July of 1943 on. I have received some 60 letters from you, the last one written in March of 1945. I have received scatterings of mail from various friends of mine, except for one or two letters, so I know very little of them. When you have a chance to answer this, please tell me who’s married, who’s gone, and who I can have my first beer with.
“There are members of the 192nd Tank Battalion here, some of the 194th, and the 17th Ordnance.
I presume you know that even with all the action in the Philippines, our casualties were very small, but after our surrender, we lost over half of our men and most of our officers.”
After liberation, the ranking officers were flown out on B-24s. The same planes flew movie projectors and screens into the camp and the former POWs watched movies of American forces taking Okinawa, Iwo Jima, and other islands. He thought it was great.
Albert returned home and married Nancy Cox on July 13, 1946, and raised a family. After being discharged on April 10, 1946, from the army. He went to visit the mother of Sgt. Vincent R. Brown since the two had an agreement that whoever made it home would go see the family of the other man if he did not. He kept in touch with the family for years.
Albert enlisted in the reserves. During this time, he enrolled in college and received a degree from the College of Wooster in 1948. He was commissioned a second lieutenant, in the army reserve, April 8, 1949. He spent 24 years in the reserves and rose in rank to Lieutenant Colonel and also campaigned for the rights of former POWs.
In 1952, over ten years after Albert had been chased on his motorcycle by a Japanese Zero, Albert was awarded the Silver Star. In spite of the passage of time, he was still proud to receive the medal.
Albert L. Allen Jr. passed away on August 14, 2004, in Mansfield, Ohio, and was buried at Mansfield Cemetery.