Pfc. Harold Richard Beggs was the son of Carl L. Beggs & Lydia M. Ohlinger-Beggs and was born on September 26, 1920, in Port Clinton, Ohio. He was one of the couple’s four children. As a child, he grew up at 310 East Sixth Street in Port Clinton.
In 1939, he joined the Ohio National Guard in Port Clinton, Ohio. In the fall of 1940, Harold was called to federal service when his tank company was inducted into the regular army.
At Fort Knox, Kentucky, Harold spent nearly a year training. In the late summer of 1941, he took part in maneuvers. After the maneuvers, were ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox. None of them had any idea why.
On the side of a hill, at Camp Polk, Louisiana, he and the other members of the battalion learned that they were not being released from federal service. Instead, they were being sent overseas as part of “Operation PLUM.” Within hours, many of the members of the battalion had figured out that PLUM stood for Philippines, Luzon, Manila.
Harold received a furlough home to say goodbye to is family. When he left home, his little brother was only 17 months old. This was the last time he would see his brother for over three years.
The reason for this move – which had been made in August 1941 – was the result of an event that took place in the summer of 1941. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf, in the Philippines, 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 which was hundreds of miles away. The island had a large radio transmitter. The squadron continued its flight plan south to Mariveles and returned to Clark Field. When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.
The next day, when another squadron was sent to the area, the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat – with a tarp on its deck – which was seen making its way to shore. Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was difficult, the boat escaped. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
From Camp Polk, the battalion traveled west over four different train routes. Arriving in San Francisco, the soldiers were ferried, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island, the soldiers were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases by the battalion’s medical detachment. Those with minor health issues were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date. Some men were simply released and replaced.
The 192nd boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Gen. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27. During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP. The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2 and had a two-day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
On Wednesday, November 5, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes. It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and, another transport, the S.S. President Calvin Coolidge. Sunday night, November 9, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11. During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Dateline.
On Saturday, November 15, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon. The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the smoke. It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country.
When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day. At one point, the ships passed an island at night and did so in total blackout. This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm’s way.
The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning. At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward King. The general apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield. He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own. Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
For the next seventeen days, the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons. The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea. They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance.
On December 1, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field. Two tank crew members remained with each tank at all times. The morning of December 8, 1941, the tankers learned of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He and the other tankers returned to the perimeter of the airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.
Around 11:45 A.M., the tankers watched as planes approached the airfield. When bombs began exploding they knew the planes were Japanese. Although they did the best they could, the tankers did not have the right type of weapons to fight the planes.
The tank battalion received orders on December 21 that it was to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf. Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas. When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
On December 23 and 24, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta. The bridge they were going used 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 at the river in the Bayambang Province.
On December 25, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27.
After this battle, C Company made its way south. When it entered Cabanatuan, it found the barrio filled with Japanese guns and other equipment. The tank company destroyed as much of the equipment as it could before proceeding south.
On December 31, 1941, Company was 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 into the town and to cross the river, Lt. Gentry set up his defenses in view of the bridge and the rice patty it crossed.
Early on the morning of the 31 st, the Japanese began moving troops and across the bridge. The engineers came next and put down planking for tanks. A little before noon Japanese tanks began crossing the bridge.
C Company’s tanks were hidden in the brush. The Japanese troops passed the tanks for three hours without knowing that they were there. While the troops passed, Lt. William Gentry, platoon commander, was on his radio describing what he was seeing. It was only when a Japanese soldier tried to take a short cut 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. They then fell back to Cabanatuan.
Later that day, the Japanese had assembled a large number of troops in the rice field on the northern edge of the town. One platoon of tanks under the command of 2nd Lt. Marshall Kennady was to the southeast of the bridge. Gentry’s tanks were to the south of the bridge in huts, while third platoon commanded by Capt Harold Collins was to the south on the road leading out of Baluiag. 2nd Lt. Everett Preston had been sent south to find a bridge to cross to attack the Japanese from behind.
Major Morley came riding in his jeep into Baluiag. He stopped in front of a hut and was spotted by the Japanese who had lookouts in the town’s church’s steeple. The guard became very excited so Morley, not wanting to give away the tanks positions, got into his jeep and drove off. Bill had told him 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’s platoon held its 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 Bill’s unit was ordered to disengage from the enemy, they had knocked out at least eight enemy tanks.
The tankers were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27, and at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29. On January 1, conflicting orders were received by the defenders who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5. Doing this would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan. General Wainwright was unaware of the orders since they came from Gen. MacArthur’s chief of staff. General Wainwright was unaware of the orders since they came from Gen. MacArthur’s chief of staff.
Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River. 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.
Over the next several months, the battalion fought battle after battle with tanks that were not designed for jungle warfare. 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. The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
In early February, the Japanese attempted to land troops behind the main battle line on Bataan. The troops were quickly cut off and when they attempted to land reinforcements, they were landed in the wrong place. The fight to wipe out these two pockets became known as the Battle of the Points.
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 requested the tanks from the Provisional Tank Group.
On February 2, a platoon of C Company tanks was ordered to Quinan Point where the Japanese had landed troops. The tanks arrived 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 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 gun fire. 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.
On February 4, at 8:30 A.M. five tanks and the radio car arrived. The tanks were assigned the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 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 send 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.
C Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line. The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket. Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket.
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 turn in a circle and grinding its way down into the foxhole. The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.
While the tanks were clearing out the Japanese, the Japanese sent soldiers carrying cans of gasoline against the tanks. The soldiers would attempt 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 them before they reached the tanks, they would shoot them as they stood on the tanks. The tankers did not like to do this because of what it did to the crews inside the tanks. The bullets hitting the tank since the often popped the tank’s rivets which hit the crew members in the tank.
On April 9, 1942, Harold became a Prisoner of War and took part in the death march, from Mariveles, at the southern tip of Bataan. The POWs made their way north along the east coast of Bataan. The first five-mile s were uphill which made the march harder on them since many were sick. They march through Limay, Balanga, and Orani. Whenever they stopped and rested, it was so the Japanese had the chance to change guards. They continued the march through Abucay and Samal. The further north they got the faster they were marched.
At Hermosa, they reached pavement which made the march easier. The march continued through Layac and Lubao. The POWs finally reached San Fernando where they were herded into a bullpen. It is not known how long they were there, but at some point, they were ordered to form detachments of 100 men and marched to the train station.
The POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars known as forty or eights. Each car could hold forty men or eight horses, but the Japanese put 100 men in each car. They were packed in so tightly, that those men who died could not fall to the floors of the cars. At Capas, the living left the cars and the dead fell to the floors.
The POWs walked the last eight kilometers to Camp O’Donnell which was an unfinished Filipino Army Training Base, which the Japanese pressed 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.
There was only one water faucet in the camp, and the prisoners stood in line from two to eight hours waiting for a drink. The Japanese guards at the faucet would turn it off for no reason and the next man in line would stand as long as four hours waiting for it to be turned on again. This situation improved when a second faucet was added.
There was no water for washing clothes, so the POWs would throw out their clothing when it had been soiled. In addition, water for cooking had to be carried three miles from a river to the camp and mess kits could not be washed. The slit trenches in the camp were inadequate and were soon overflowing since most of the POWs had dysentery. The result was that flies were everywhere in the camp including the POW kitchens and in the food.
The camp hospital had no soap, water, or disinfectant. When the ranking American doctor at the camp wrote a letter to the camp commandant, Capt. Yohio Tsuneyoshi, asking for medical supplies, he was told never to write another letter. When the Archbishop of Manila sent a truckload of medical supplies to the camp, the Japanese commandant refused to allow the truck into the camp. The Philippine Red Cross sent medical supplies to the camp and the Japanese took 95% of the supplies for their own use.
The POWs in the camp hospital lay on the floor elbow to elbow and only one of the six medic assigned to care for 50 sick POWs was healthy enough to care for them. When a representative of the Philippine Red Cross stated they could supply a 150-bed hospital for the camp, he was slapped in the face by a Japanese lieutenant.
Each morning, the bodies of the dead were found all over the camp and were carried to the hospital and placed underneath it. The bodies lay there for two or three days before they were buried in the camp cemetery by other POWs who were suffering from dysentery and/or malaria. To clean the ground under the hospital, the ground was scraped and lime was spread over it. The bodies of the dead were placed in the area, and the area they had been laying was scraped and lime was spread over it.
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, so the POWs began volunteering for work details to escape the camp.
Harold went out on the Bridge Building Detail to Bataan which was under the command of Lt. Col. Ted Wickord of the 192nd. The first bridge the POWs rebuilt was at Calauan. After the bridge was completed, the POWs were sent to Batangas to rebuild a bridge there. They next went to Candelaria to rebuild a third bridge. After this detail, he was held as a prisoner at Cabanatuan which had been the headquarters of the 91st Philippine Army Division and was formerly known at Camp Pangatian.
To prevent escapes, the POWs set up a detail that patrolled the fence of the camp. The reason this was done was that those who did escape and were caught were tortured before being executed, while the other POWs were made to watch. It is believed that no POW successfully escaped from the camp.
The POWs were sent out on work details to cut wood for the POW kitchens. Meals on a daily basis consisted of 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, and sweet potato or corn. Other POWs worked in rice paddies. 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.
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. 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. It is not known if Harold was held at other camps in the Philippines or if he remained at Cabanatuan the entire time he was a POW in the Philippines.
In 1944, Harold was sent to Bilibid Prison for what the Japanese called a physical. He was then sent to the Port Area of Manila. There he boarded the Hokusen Maru on October 1, 1944, for shipment to Japan. In the hold of the ship, he was reunited with Wade Chio and Virgil Janes of C Company. The ship sailed but dropped anchor at the harbor’s breakwater. It remained there for three days and the temperatures in the hold rose to over 100 degrees causing some men to go crazy. The Japanese threatened to kill the POWs if they didn’t quiet the men. To do this, the sane POWs strangled those out of their minds or hit them with canteens.
As part of a ten-ship convoy, it sailed again on October 4 and stopped at Cabcaban. The next day, it was at San Fernando La Union, where the ships were joined by four more ships and five escorts. The ships stayed close to the shoreline to prevent submarine attacks which failed since, on October 6, two of the ships were sunk.
The ships were informed, on October 9, that American carriers were seen near Formosa and that American planes were in the area. The decision was made to send the ships to Hong Kong. During this part of the trip, the ships ran into American submarines which sank two more ships. The Hokusen Maru arrived at Hong Kong on October 11. While it was in port, American planes bombed the harbor on October 16. On October 21, the ship sailed for Takao, Formosa, arriving on October 24.
During the trip, Wade Chio was not doing well. One reason was that he was against one of the walls of the hold and could not get much food. To help Chio, Harold switched places with him so that he got more food. This move resulted in Harold losing his eyesight because of lack of food.
On November 8, 1944, the Japanese decided that the POWs were too ill to be sent to Japan. Harold and the other POWs were disembarked and spent two months on the island. He was held on the island at Inron Temporary Camp. Since they were in such poor shape, the Japanese only made the POWs do light work. The healthier POWs worked at a sugar mill.
Harold and Wade Chio arrived in Japan on the Melbourne Maru. The ship left Formosa on January 14, 1945, and arrived at Moji, Japan, on January 23. From Moji, some of the POWs were later sent to Aisho Camp which was located on the side of a mountain.
Living conditions in the camp were atrocious. The camp had a limited amount of water because the water line to the camp was broken. This meant they could not wash after working and for cooking. The POW kitchen was 40 feet from the latrines resulting in flies being everywhere in the kitchen. The Japanese also did not supply lids for the cooking utensils. The Japanese guard in charge of the POW mess stole food for himself that was meant for them. POWs reported he was seen carrying sacks of rice and sugar, assigned to them, from the camp.
In the camp, the POWs slept in two barracks that were inadequately heated and during the cold nights, the POWs had only thin blankets to cover themselves with. Their beds were two platforms that went around the perimeter of each building. On the mats were lice-infested straw mats that they slept on. The Red Cross blankets that were sent to the camp, for the POWs, were issued to the guards.
The Japanese misappropriated the Red Cross packages for themselves and stored them in a warehouse inside the camp. Besides the blankets, they also took chocolate, canned meats, fruit, and milk, and clothing meant for the POWs. Since a certain number of POWs had to report for work each day, the Japanese medic in charge of the sickbay, sent men to work who were too sick to do heavy work. The Japanese also withheld medicine and medical supplies sent for POW use and used it for themselves.
Meals for the POWs were always the same. It was a mixture of barley, maize, Indian corn, and rice. Once a month the Japanese slaughtered a horse for the civilian workers, and the POWs got the bones which they cooked for days to soften them. They were then divided among the POWs.
The POWs worked in the Ashio Copper mine which had been closed but reopened because of the war. When they entered the mine or left to mine, they had to bow to the mine god. Many said their own prayers since the mine was in poor condition. Safety regulations in the mine were almost none existent and POWs were frequently injured. The POWs used sledgehammers to break large rocks into smaller ones so they could be loaded into mine cars. A Japanese medic determined who was healthy enough to work each day.
According to archival information, Harold was later transferred to Sendai #8. He was once again used as a laborer in mining. He remained in this camp to the end of the war. The prisoners lived in wooden barracks that were 40 feet long and 20 feet wide. During the winter, the POWs received three pieces of wood each day. Those POWs caught smuggling coal or wood into the camp were beaten. The POW food was inadequate and those men caught smuggling food were also beaten. In July 1945, his parents learned he was a POW in Japan. This was the first news they had received about him since they had learned he was a POW.
Punishments took on various forms in the camp. At times it was collective, and all the POWs were punished because of the actions of one or a few men. On one occasion, a POW stole blanket and the entire camp was made to stand at attention until the man confessed. After his confession, all the POWs had to walk past him and slap him in the face. When this ended, he was put in the guardhouse for two days. Another time five POWs violated a camp rule and had to stand nude in the cold for an hour and a half.
Beatings were a common punishment given to the POWs. They were slapped, kicked, punched, hit with iron bars, and sheathings from swords. If a POW reported for sick call, the man was beaten. Often, after the beating, the man was put in the guardhouse – without adequate food – for several days.
Clothing for the POWs was Japanese summer uniforms which were inadequate for the cold winters. Although the Red Cross had sent, food, blankets, clothing, shoes, and medical supplies to the camp, the Japanese did not issue it to the POWs. Instead, they used the supplies themselves.
The POWs worked in a copper mine owned Fujita-Gumi Construction Company. The civilian employees were allowed to beat the POWs if they thought they weren’t working hard enough. He remained in this camp until the end of the war.
The POWs heard rumors that the war was over, but had no proof of it. They convinced their commanding officer, Capt. Thomas Walker Davis to approach the Japanese camp commander and ask. He did, and the Japanese officer offered his hand to shake hands. It was when the two men shook hands that the prisoners knew the war was over.
The guards had also leaned their rifles along the side of a building. The POWs made a break for them and got to the guns before the Japanese. The guards did not fight them for the guns.
A few days later, an American plane flew over the camp and dropped a note that told the POWs to put one man in the middle of the camp for every 100 POWs that were in the camp. The POWs put four men in the camp’s center.
The next day B-29s appeared over the camp and began to drop 55-gallon drums. One drum hit the camp kitchen. To stop this from happening again, the POWs drew a circle for a drop zone. There was no more damage after this was done. His parents would learn he had been liberated in a letter written by Virgil Janes another member of his tank company.
After he was liberated, Harold returned to the Philippines. He sailed for the United States on the U.S.S. General R. L. Howze arriving at San Francisco on October 16, 1945. He returned to Port Clinton and was discharged, from the army, on February 9, 1946. For the rest of his life, Harold suffered partial paralysis in his legs and from impaired vision.
Harold returned to Port Clinton and worked as a machinist for U.S. Gypsum. He married Ruth E. Bluhm and became the father of a daughter and two sons. On March 12, 1949, Harold – and five other members of the tank company – served as one of the pallbearers at the funeral service of Sgt. John Morine who had died as a POW of Formosa.
On February 8, 1962, Harold and his family were home when their house exploded from a kitchen stove gas leak. Amazingly, Harold, his wife, and two sons survived the explosion. Their daughter was not at home at the time.
Harold’s wife, Ruth, passed away on January 20, 1968. Harold passed away on July 22, 2001, in Oak Harbor, Ohio.