Blacketer, Pvt. William E.

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Blacketer

Pvt. William Elwood Blacketer
Born: 5 April 1919 – Mackville, Kentucky
Parents: Elmer Blacketer & Hattie Shewmaker-Blacketer
Siblings: 3 sisters, 7 brothers
Home: 461 Hardin Avenue – Harrodsburg, Kentucky
Occupation: Odd Jobs
Enlisted:
– Kentucky National Guard – Harrodsburg
Inducted:
– U. S. Army
– 25 November 1940 – Harrodsburg
Training:
– Fort Knox, Kentucky
– Basic Training
– the training was done with 69th Tank Regiment, First Armored Division
– soldiers rushed through basic training
– Week 1: infantry drilling
– Week 2: manual arms and marching to music
– Week 3: machine gun
– Week 4: pistol
– Week 5: M1 rifle
– Week 6: field week – training with gas masks, gas attacks, pitching tents, and hikes
– Weeks 7, 8, 9, 10: Time 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
– December 1940 – moved into barracks
– shared their mess hall with A Company until its mess hall was finished
– men selected to be transferred to the newly created Hq Company
– Blacketer was one of those selected
Note: The new company was the largest company in the battalion and divided into a staff platoon, a reconnaissance platoon, a maintenance platoon, a motor platoon, and the usual cooks and clerks that every company had. Men were assigned various jobs which included scouts, radio operators, mechanics, truck drivers, and other duties.  Men were also sent to specialty schools with training in areas like tank mechanic, radio, automotive mechanic, and small and large arms.
– still lived in D Company barracks until Hq Company’s barracks were finished
– Typical Day
– 6:15 – reveille
– 7:00 – 8:00 A.M. – breakfast
– 8:00 – 8:30 A.M. – calisthenics
– 9:00 A.M. – attended various tank schools
– classes
–  30 and 50 caliber machine-guns
– pistols
– map reading
– care of personal equipment
– military courtesy
– training in tactics
– 11:30 – soldiers cleaned up for mess
– Noon – 1:00 P.M. – mess
– 1:00 P.M. – attended schools for specific training under First Armored Division
– mechanics
– radio operators and electricians
– tank driving
– qualified as a tank driver

Note: During February, four composite tank detachments made of men from all the companies of the battalion left Ft. Knox – on different dates – on problematic moves at 9:00 A.M. The detachments consisted of three motorcycles, two scout cars, sixteen tanks, one ambulance, and supply, fuel and kitchen trucks. The route was difficult and chosen so that the men could become acquainted with their equipment. They also had to watch out for simulated enemy planes. Bridges were avoided whenever it was possible to ford the water. They received their rations from a food truck.

In late March 1941, the entire battalion 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.

On June 14th and 16th, 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 14th, while A and B Companies, and the other halves of Hq Company and the Medical Detachment left the fort on June 16th. 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. 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.

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.

– Louisiana Maneuvers
– The entire battalion was loaded onto trucks and sent in a convoy to Louisiana while the tanks and wheeled vehicles were sent by train.
– During the maneuvers that 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.” 
– Being a member of Hq Company, he worked to keep the tanks running and supplied but did not actively participate in the maneuvers.
– It was after these maneuvers that the 192nd Tank Battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox. Many of the soldiers were furloughs home and get their affairs in order. Men 29 years old or older were allowed to resign from federal service
– replacements for these men came from 753rd Tank Battalion
– the 192nd also got the tanks of the 753rd and some came from the Third Armored Division

Note: The decision 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.

Overseas Duty:
– soldiers arrived by train in San Francisco, California
– ferried to Angel Island on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe
– Boarded: U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott
– Sailed: San Francisco – Monday – 27 October 1941
– Arrived: Honolulu, Hawaii – Sunday – 2 November 1941
– soldiers give shore leave
– Sailed: Wednesday – 5 November 1941
– took a southerly route away from main shipping lanes
– joined by U.S.S. Louisville and S.S. President Calvin Coolidge
– stopped at Wake Island for supplies and dropped off B-17 ground support crews
– 15 November 1941 – smoke from ship spotted on the horizon
– The Louisville revved its engine, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the smoke
– the smoke was from a friendly country
– the Louisville also intercepted two other ships that were Japanese freighters carrying scrap metal to Japan
– Arrived: Guam – 16 November 1941
– ships take on coconuts, water, vegetables, bananas
– Sailed: 17 November 1941
– Arrived: Manila, Philippine Islands
– Thursday – 20 November 1941
– soldiers disembark ship three to four hours after arrival
– boarded buses
– Stationed: Ft. Stotsenburg
– General Edward King greeted them and apologize about their living quarters
– made sure that the soldiers had Thanksgiving dinner – a stew thrown into their mess kits before they he had his own

Note: The members of the battalion pitched the ragged World War I tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg. The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent. There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of the rows of tents.

The area was near the end of a runway used by B-17s for takeoffs. The planes flew over the tents at about 100 feet blowing dirt everywhere and the noise was unbelievable. At night, they heard the sounds of planes flying over the airfield which turned out to be Japanese reconnaissance planes. 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. 

Engagements:
– Battle of Luzon – 8 December 1941 – 6 January 1942
– 8 December 1941 – 6 January 1942
– lived through attack on Clark Field
– HQ Company remained in battalion bivouac
– members took cover in dry latrine
– lived through two more heavy attacks on December 10 and 13
– 15 December 1941
– each battalion received 15 Bren Gun Carriers
– used to see if ground could support tanks
– 21 December 1941
– 192nd ordered to support 26th Cavalry, Philippine Scouts at Lingayen Gulf
– Japanese landing troops
– HQ Company went north to support tank companies wherever they were
– 22 December 1941 – first tank battle
– tanks make run to Damortis
– tanks supported 26th Cavalry
– 26th Cavalry did not want tank support
– 71st Division Commander said that they would clutter up their action
– 23/24 December 1941
– operated north of the Agno River
– main bridge at Carmen blown
– tank battalions made end runs to get south of Agno River
– 24 December 1941
– tank battalions held line along south bank of Agno River
– 192nd held left side of line from west of Carmen (on Route 3)
– critical points – held position for 24 hours
– 25/26 December 1941 – tank battalions organized tank defenses
– 192nd held line from Carmen (Route 3) to Tayug – northeast of San Quentin
– critical points held by tanks
– some tanks only in radio contact with each other
– ordered to hold position until 5:00 A.M. – 27 December 1941
– 26/27 December 1941
– 192nd tanks ordered to form new defensive line from Carmen to Umigan
– destroyed most of 44,000 gallons of 100-octane gas
– 27 December 1941 – withdrew from line that night
– formed new line: Santa Ignacia – Gerona – Santo Tomas – San Jose
– 27/28 December 1941 – withdrew
– formed new line: Tarlac – Cabanatuan
– 28/29 December 1941
– dropped back and formed: Bamban Gapan Line
– 29/30 December 1941
– new line behind Bamban River
– ordered to hold until they received further orders
– 31 December 1941/1 January 1942
– tanks covering area north of Calumpit
– 2 January 1942 – tanks ordered to Lyac Junction to covering position
– cover withdrawal toward Bataan
– 192nd covered northwest flanks
– 194th withdrew covered by 192nd
– 6 January 1942
– tank battalions held line between Culis and Hermosa
– 6/7 January 1942
– 192nd covered withdrawal of 194th
– 192nd last American unit to enter Bataan
– bridge blown after it crossed
– Battle of Bataan
– 7 January 1942 – 9 April 1942
– 8 January 1942 – composite tank company created
– held East Coast Road open
– under constant enemy fire
– tank battalions bivouac just south of Pilar-Bagac Road
– tank companies reduced to 10 tanks
– HQ Company and 17th Ordnance do needed maintenance on tanks
– 13 January 1942 – tanks dropped back to battalion bivouac
– 20 January 1942 – withdrawal from Abucay-Hacienda Line
– 192nd covered East Coast Road
– 25 January 1942 – Balanga-the Cadre Road-Bani Bani Road
Note: 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.”
– 25/26 January 1942
– Balanga – bridge battalion was to use destroyed by artillery fire
– battalion had to use alternate roads west of Balanga
– 28 January 1942 – beach duty
– 192nd from Pandan Point to Limay
– also was suppose to support sub-sectors A and B
– during day tanks remained under jungle canopy
– at night the tanks were moved onto beaches
– 31 January 1942
– half-tracks patrolled roads
– 1 February 1942
– tanks and half-tracks take on protecting three airfields
– Battle of the Pockets
– Japanese attacked and were pushed back creating two pockets behind the main defensive line
– tanks sent in to wipe out pockets
– tanks would enter pocket one at a time
– another tank would not enter until tank that was relieved left the pocket
– first method used against Japanese
– three Filipinos soldiers rode on back of tanks
– as tank passed over Japanese foxhole, Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into foxhole
– one of the three hand grenades usually exploded
– second method used against Japanese
– tank would park with one track over foxhole
– tank driver gave power to other track causing the tank to spin
– tank ground its way into ground
– March 1942
– Japanese had been fought to a standstill
– suffered from same illnesses affecting Americans
– 3 April 1942
– fresh troops brought in from Singapore
– launch major offense
– 6 April 1942
– tanks sent to various areas in attempt to plug holes in defensive line
– 8 April 1942
– Gen. Edward P. King
– determined only 25% of his troops were healthy enough to fight
– would last one more day
– feared that the 6,000 troops who were hospitalized and 40,000 Filipino civilians would be slaughtered
– 10:30 P.M. – sent staff officers to meet with Japanese and negotiate surrender terms
Note: 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.”
Prisoner of War:
– 9 April 1942
– Death March
– Mariveles – POWs started the march at the southern tip of Bataan
– POWs ran past Japanese artillery firing at Corregidor
– Americans on Corregidor returned fire
– San Fernando – POWs put into small wooden boxcars
– each boxcar could hold eight horses or forty men
– 100 POWs packed into each car
– POWs who died remained standing since they could not fall to the floors
– Capas – dead fell to the floors as living left boxcars
– POWs walked last ten miles to Camp O’Donnell
POW Camps:
Philippine Islands:
– Camp O’Donnell
– 1 April 1942 – unfinished Filipino training base Japanese put into use as a POW camp
– Japanese believed the camp could hold 15,000 to 20,000 POWs
– POWs searched upon arrival at camp
– those found with Japanese money were accused of looting
– sent to guardhouse
– over several days, gunshots heard southeast of the camp
– POWs who had money on them had been executed
– Japanese took away any extra clothing from POWs as they entered the camp and refused to return it
– since no water was available for wash clothing, the POWs threw soiled clothing away
– clothing was taken from dead
– few of the POWs in the camp hospital had clothing
– POWs were not allowed to bathe
– only one water spigot for the entire camp
– POWs waited 2½ hours to 8 hours to get a drink
– water frequently turned off by Japanese guards and the next man in line waited as long as 4 hours for the water to be turned on again
– mess kits could not be cleaned
– POWs had to carry water 3 miles from a river to cook their meals
– second water spigot installed a week after POWs arrived
– slit trenches overflowed since many of the POWs had dysentery
– flies were everywhere including in camp kitchens and food
– the camp hospital had no water, soap, or disinfectant
– the senior POW doctor wrote a list of medicines he wanted to treat the sick and was told by the camp commandant, Capt. Yoshio Tsuneyoshi, never to
  write another letter
– Tsuneyoshi said that all he wanted to know about the American POWs was their names and numbers when they died
– refused to allow a truckload of medicine sent by the Archbishop of Manila into the camp
– 95% of the medicine sent by Philippine Red Cross was taken by the Japanese for their own use
– POWs in the camp hospital lay on the floor elbow to elbow
– operations on POWs were performed with mess kit knives
– only one medic out of six assigned to care for 50 sick POWs, in the hospital, was well enough to work
– as many as 50 POWs died each day
– each morning dead were found everywhere in the camp and stacked up under the hospital
– the ground under hospital was scrapped and cover with lime to clean it
– the dead were moved to this area and the section where they had laid was scrapped and cover with lime
– usually not buried for two or three days
– work details: if a POW could walk, he was sent out on a work detail
– POWs on burial detail often had dysentery and malaria
– Japanese opened a new POW camp to lower death rate
– 1 June 1942 – POWs formed detachments of 100 men
– POWs marched out the gate and marched toward Capas
– Filipino people gave POWs small bundles of food
– the guards did not stop them
– At Capas, the POWs were put into steel boxcars and rode them to Manila
– the train stopped at Calumpit and switched onto the line to Cabanatuan
– POWs disembarked the train at 6:00 P.M. and put into a schoolyard
– fed rice and onion soup
– Cabanatuan
– original name: Camp Pangatian
– Philippine Army Base built for 91st Philippine Army Division
– actually three camps
– Camp 1: POWs from the death march and Camp O’Donnell
– Camp 2: four miles away
– all POWs moved from there because of a lack of water
– later used for Naval POWs
– Camp 3: six miles from Camp 2
– POWs from Corregidor and from hospitals sent there
– POWs later moved to Camp 1
– Camp 1:
– work details sent out to cut wood for POW kitchens, plant rice, and farm
– when POWs lined up for roll call, it was a common practice for Japanese guards, after the POWs lined up, to kick the POWs in
  their shins with their hobnailed boots
– they also were frequently hit with a pick handle, for no reason, as they counted off
– POWs on the rice planting detail were punished by having their faces pushed into the mud and stepped on
– the POWs had to go into a shed to get the tools, as they came out, they were hit on their heads
– if the guards on the detail decided the POW wasn’t doing what he should be doing, he was beaten
– many POWs on details were able to smuggle in medicine, food, and tobacco into the camp
– to prevent escapes, the POWs set up patrols along the camp’s fence
– men who attempted to escape and caught were executed after being beaten
– the other POWs were forced to watch the beatings
– daily POW meal – 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, sweet potato or corn
– Camp Hospital:
– 30 Wards
– each ward could hold 40 men
– frequently had 100 men in each
– two tiers of bunks
– sickest POWs on the bottom tier
– each POW had a 2 foot by 6-foot area to lie in
– Zero Ward
– given the name, because it had been missed when counting wards
– became ward where those who were going to die were sent
– fenced off from other wards
– Japanese guards would not go near it
– POWs sent there had little to no chance of surviving
Transfer:
– 1 November 1942
– 1500 POW names drawn by Japanese
– POWs selected were sent to Japan
– POWs never were told this, they figured it out on their own
– 5 November 1942
– 3:00 A.M. – POWs left camp and marched to the Barrio of Cabanatuan
– before they left camp, they were given their breakfast to take with them
– rice and what the Japanese called a “large piece of meat”
– the piece of meat was two inches square and a quarter inch thick
– it was large compared to a piece of meat they usually received
– Barrio of Cabanatuan
– boarded train
– 98 POWs were put into each car
– the POWs could move if they worked together
– rode the train to Manila
– arrived at 5:00 P.M.
– marched to Pier 7
– slept on a concrete floor inside a building
Hell Ship:
Nagato Maru
– Boarded: Manila – 6 November 1942 – 5:00 P.M.
– Japanese attempted to put 600 POWs into one hold
– settled for somewhere between 550 and 560
– 9 POWs had to share a 4 foot, 9 inches, by 6 foot, 2 inches, space
– to sit, POWs had to draw their knees under their chins
– Sailed: 7 November 1942
– two latrines were supposed to service 1500 POWs
– the POWs had to stand in line to use them
– extremely sick could not reach latrines
– tubs put in holds for the sick
– to reach them, they had to walk on other POWs
– floor quickly became covered in human waste
– hold infested with lice, fleas, and roaches
– Meals: no system in place for distribution of food
– the sickest POWs did not eat
– water was almost non-existent
– holds were extremely hot
– POWs were rotated on deck
– Arrived: Takao, Formosa – 11 November 1942
– stayed three days in the harbor
– POWs were not allowed on deck for short periods of time
– Sailed: 15 November 1942
– Arrived: Mako, Pescadores Islands
– same day
– Sailed: 18 November 1942
– Arrived: Keelung, Formosa – same day
– Sailed: 20 November 1942
– POWs felt explosions from depth charges
– Arrived: Moji – 24 November 1942
– stayed on ship until 5:00 P.M. the next day
– as they left the ship, POWs received a piece of colored wood
– the color determined what camp the POW was sent to
– POWs deloused and showered after coming ashore
– inoculated
– given new clothing
– POWs ferried to Shimonoseki, Honshu
– boarded train and rode along the northern side of the Inland Sea to Osaka-Kobe Area
– divided into detachments, according to colored wood chips, and sent to camps
POW Camps:
– Japan:
Yodogawa Camp
– Arrived: 22 November 1942
– Work: steel mills
– POWs worked at multiple sites
– Japanese pilfered Red Cross packages of cigarettes, canned food and milk, cheese, and other items
– also took Red Cross clothing and shoes
– POWs fed moldy rice and green wheat which made them sick

Note: Corporal punishment was common in the camp and given out for the slightest violation. POWs who were caught with food were beaten and thrown into the guardhouse. On one occasion while the POWs were working a POW stole an entire bowl of rice from a Japanese civilian. To find out which of the 15 POWs involved did it, the Japanese forced a dirty rope down the throat of each man and caused him to vomit. The man whose vomit contained the rice was the guilty POW.

A common punishment was to have the POWs strip naked and make them kneel, in the cold, with a bamboo pole behind their knees to cut off circulation to their legs. As they knelt, they were beaten until unconscious. As they lay on the ground, water was thrown on them to revive them and the beating resumed. This was repeated many times.

The largest collective punishment took place after the Japanese discovered there were POWs selling their rubber sole shoes to Japanese civilians. All the POWs were lined up, called to attention, and made to strip naked. They then were made to kneel, with bamboo poles behind their knees for hours until those guilty of trading their shoes confessed.

One POW, who wanted to end the punishment, said that he was the guilty man. The fact was he did this to end the punishment and had not traded his shoes. The man was beaten on his head and shoulders with slippers, belts, fists, and leather heels. He was knocked to the ground and was kicked in his stomach and other parts of his body. When he passed out, water was thrown on him to revive him and the beating continued until he passed out again. Again he was revived with water and beaten until he passed out. Afterward, his hands were tied behind his back, to a rope, and he was strung up, on his tiptoes, all night.

– Camp Closed: 18 May 1945
– most, if not all, the POWs were sent to Osaka 3-B
– the camp was also known as Oeyama
– Oeyama Camp
– Work: nickel refinery
– mines located almost six miles from camp
– POWs extracted ore with picks and shovels loaded ore into ore car and pushed it to a railroad track that ran past mine
– often worked in snow as deep as six feet
– POWs also worked on Miyazu docks
– stole food meant for the Japanese Army
– Collective Punishment
– if a POW broke a rule all POWs in his work detachment or the camp were punished
– 12 POWs were accused of stealing rice while at the docks
– stood at attention for two hours
– forced to swallow rope which caused them to vomit
– Japanese found no rice
– fed the POWs rice and let them go to their barracks
– at times entire camp was made to stand at attention because a rule was broken by one POW
– Red Cross packages withheld from POWs
– Japanese misappropriated packages for canned meats, canned milk, butter, chocolate, and cigarettes
– Japanese also use clothes and shoes meant for POWs
– 30 July 1945 – air raid
– B-29s heavy bomb the nearby port town on Miyazu on the west coast of the island
– bombing runs went over camp
– POWs working on docks made to work through an air raid
– two POWs accidentally killed
– one guard told POWs they would be killed if Americans invaded Japan
– two weeks later major attack on Miyazu
– lasted all night until noon the next days
-the guard who told them they would be executed also told the POWs the war was over
Liberated: 2 September 1945
– returned to Manila
Sailed: Manila – U.S.S. Joseph T. Dychman – September 1945
Arrived: San Francisco – 16 October 1945
Married: Juanita Yeast
– sister of Willard and Claude Yeast of the 192nd Tank Battalion
Note:
According to Bill Blacketer, his father had worked as a book salesman and was accused of embezzling money from his company. He spent two years in prison. Bill stated that he was in Louisville in December 1969, just after enlisting in the Air Force. He was walking down the street and ran into his father. The two talked for several hours before parting company. That was the last time he ever saw his father.
Other members of the family have stated that William was involved in some trouble with Chicago hoodlums. According to them, he disappeared not too long after this and has never been heard from again.

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