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Derrick, Sgt. Billy S.

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Sgt. Billy Sunday Derrick
Born: 4 March 1922 – Kanawha County, West Virginia
Parents: William W. Derrick & Hester Young-Derrick
Siblings: 2 sisters, 2 brothers
Hometown: Falls, West Virginia
Enlisted:
– U.S. Army
– 11 January 1941
– Fort Hayes, Columbus, Ohio
Trained:
– Fort Knox, Kentucky
– first six weeks was the primary 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: 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
Classroom: courses lasted 3 months
– Weapons: soldiers assigned to ordnance issued a pistol, and possibly a machine gun or submachine gun
– Vehicle Training: soldiers attended different schools
– tank maintenance, truck maintenance, scout car maintenance, motorcycle maintenance, and carpentry
– Company’s machine shop, welding shop, and kitchen were all on trucks
– August 1941 – took part in maneuvers in Arkansas
Units:
– 19th Ordnance Battalion
– 17th Ordnance Company
– the company created from A Company of 19th Ordnance
– trained alongside the 192nd Tank Battalion at Ft. Knox
– September 1941 – received orders for overseas duty
Note: The decision for this move – which had been made on August 15, 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:
– rode a train to Ft. Mason, San Francisco, California
– ferried to Ft. McDowell, Angel Island on U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe
– given physicals and inoculations
– men with medical conditions replaced
– Ship: U.S.S. President Coolidge
– Boarded: Monday – 8 September 1941 – 3:00 P.M.
– Sailed: 9:00 P.M. – same day
– Arrived: Honolulu, Hawaii – Saturday – 13 September 1941 – 7:00 A.M.
– Sailed: 5:00 P.M. – same day
– sailed south away from main shipping lanes
– escorted by the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Astoria, and an unknown destroyer
– smoke was seen on the horizon several times
– cruiser intercepted ships
– ships from friendly countries
– Arrived: Manila, Philippine Islands – Friday – 26 September 1941
– Disembark
– 17th Ordnance remained behind to unload tanks of the 194th Tank Battalion
– reattached turrets to tanks
– rode a bus to Ft. Stotsenburg
Stationed:
– Ft. Stotsenburg
– lived in tents until barracks completed – 15 November 1941
– assigned to 192nd Tank Battalion
PFC William Biddle, 1st. Sgt. Gerald Moffett, and S/Sgt. Frank Kindlesparker were with him
Engagements:
– Battle of Luzon – 8 December 1942 – 6 January 1942
– converted WWI anti-personnel shells for use by tanks
– set up fuel dumps for the tanks during the withdraw toward Bataan
– Battle of Bataan – 7 January 1942 – 9 April 1942
– serviced tanks of the Provisional Tank Group on the front lines in combat situations
– manufactured and scavenged spare parts for the tanks
– Bagac-Orion Front – early April 1942
– 192nd drove the Japanese out of their positions
– Frank and the others found the warm body of someone they knew
– a piece of the man’s left thigh had been cut from the leg
– the men found it at a campfire where the Japanese had attempted to cook it
– the meat fit perfectly into the thigh except where there were bite marks
– 8 April 1942
– 10:30 P.M. – Gen. King announced that further resistance would result in the massacre of 6,000 sick or wounded troops and 40,000 civilians
– less than 25% of his troops were healthy enough to continue fighting
– he estimated they could hold out one more day
– sent his staff officers to negotiate the surrender of Bataan
– 11:40 P.M. – ammunition dumps were blown up
Prisoner of War
– 9 April 1942
– Death March
– POWs started the march at Mariveles on the southern tip of Bataan
– ran past Japanese artillery firing on Corregidor
– American artillery returned fire
– San Fernando – POWs packed into small wooden boxcars
– each boxcar could hold eight horses or forty men
– Japanese packed 100 POWs into each boxcar
– POWs who died remained standing since they could not fall to the floors
– Capas – POWs left boxcars and the dead fell-out of cars
– POWs walked last ten miles to Camp O’Donnell
POW Camps:
– Philippines:
– Camp O’Donnell
– unfinished Filipino Army training base
– Japanese put it into use as a POW camp
– one water spigot for the entire camp
– as many as fifty POWs died each day
– 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
It was during May 1942, that his family received this message:

“According to War Department records you have been designated as the emergency addressee of Pgt. Billy S. Derrick, who according to the latest information available, was serving in the Philippine Islands at the time of the final surrender.
“We deeply regret that it is impossible for us to give you more information. In the last days before the surrender of Bataan, there were casualties which were not reported to the war department. Conceivably, the same is true of the surrender of Corregidor and possibly of other islands of the Philippines. The Japanese government has indicated its intentions of conforming to the terms of the Geneva convention with respects to the interchange of information regarding prisoners of war. At some future date, this government will receive through Geneva a list of persons who have been taken prisoners of war. Until that time the war department cannot give you positive information.
“The war department will consider the persons serving in the Philippine Islands as ‘missing in action’ from the date of the surrender of Corregidor, May 7, 1942, until definite information to the contrary is received. It is hoped that the Japanese government will communicate a list of prisoners of war at an early date. At this time you will be notified by this office in the event his name (Billy S. Derrick) is contained in the list of prisoners of war.”

– Cabanatuan
– “healthy” POWs sent to the camp
– Philippine Army Base built for 91st Philippine Army Division
– Japanese put the base into use as a POW camp
– “Blood Brother” rule implemented
– if one POW in the group of 10 escaped, the other nine would be killed
– work details sent out to cut wood for POW kitchens
– many were able to smuggle in medicine, food, and tobacco
– men who escaped and were later caught were executed
– daily POW meal – 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, sweet potato or corn
– hospitalized – 2 August 1942 – malaria
– discharged – no date was given
During July 1942, his family received a second letter. 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, Pvt. Dwight E. Miller 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.”

Hell Ship:
Taga Maru
– Sailed: Manila – 20 September 1943
– Arrived: Takao, Formosa – 23 September 1943
– Sailed: 26 September 1943
– Arrived: Moji, Japan – 5 October 1943
– 70 POWs died during the trip
POW Camp:
– Japan
Tokyo 5-B
– 7 October 1943 – arrived at camp
– the camp was closed April 1944
– POWs transferred
Tokyo 15-B
– POWs transferred to camp
Liberated:
– September 1945
– returned to the Philippine Islands
Transport:
U.S.S. Hugh Rodman
– Sailed: Manila – not known
– Arrived: San Francisco – 3 October 1945
– taken to Letterman General Hospital
Married: 18 October 1947
– Doris Fizer
Children: 3 daughters
Occupation: Charleston Naval Yard
Died:
– 24 August 1988 – Veterans Administration Medical Center, Asheville, North Carolina
Funeral Services:
– Robinson Funeral Home Chapel, Easley, South Carolina
Buried:
– Greenlawn Memorial Park – Easley, South Carolina

 

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