Gravitt, Pvt. Lyle R.

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Pvt. Lyle Robert Gravitt 
Born: 19 December 1919 – Ames, Iowa 
Parents: Joseph B. Gravitt & Letha M. Bates-Gravitt 
– step-father: James M. Smith 
Siblings: 3 sisters, 1 brother, 1 half-sister, 1 half-brother 
Hometown: Union, Iowa 
Education: 2 years of high school 
Residence: Lander, Wyoming 
Enlisted: Wyoming National Guard 
– member of a cavalry unit 
Inducted: 
– U. S. Army 
– 24 February 1941 
Training: 
– Fort Lewis, Washington 
Units:
– 115th Cavalry Regiment
– federalized National Guard unit
– volunteered to go to the Philippine Islands
– A Company, 194th Tank Battalion

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:
– 4 September 1941
– the battalion traveled by train to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California
– Arrived: 7:30 A.M. – 5 September 1941
– ferried to Ft. McDowell, Angel Island on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe
– given physicals and inoculations
– men with medical conditions replaced
– Ship: S.S. President Calvin 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
– escorted by the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Astoria, an unknown destroyer, and the U.S.S. Guadalupe a replenishment oiler
– smoke was seen on the horizon several times
– cruiser intercepted ships
– Tuesday, 16 September 1941 – crossed International Dateline
– date jumped to Thursday, 18 September 1941
– Arrived: Manila – Friday – 26 September 1941
– disembarked ship – 3:00 P.M.
– taken by bus to Fort Stotsenburg
– maintenance section with 17th ordnance remained behind to unload the tanks and attached turrets
– 27 September 1941 – job completed at 9:00 A.M.
Stationed:
– Ft. Stotsenburg, Philippine Islands
– lived in tents upon arriving
– 15 November 1941 – moved into barracks
– the barracks walls were open and screened three feet from the bottom
– above that, the walls were woven bamboo that allowed the air to pass through
– washing – the lucky man washed by a faucet with running water
Work Day:
– 5:15 A. M. – reveille
– washing – the lucky man washed by a faucet with running water
– 6:00 A.M. – breakfast
– 7:00 to 11:30 A.M. 
– Noon – lunch
– 1:30 to 2:30 P.M. – worked
– the shorter afternoon work period was based on the belief that the climate made it too hot to work
– the tankers worked until 4:30 P.M.
– the term “recreation in the motor pool” was used for this work time
Tank Crews:
– during this time, the tank crews learned about the M3A1 tanks
– tank commanders read manuals on tanks and taught crews about the tanks
– learned about the 30-caliber and 50 caliber machineguns
– spent three hours of each day taking the guns apart and putting them back together
– did it until they could disassemble and assemble the guns blindfolded
– could not fire guns since they were not given ammunition which had been requested by Gen. King but not released by Gen. MacArthur
– 5:10 – dinner
– after dinner, the soldiers were free to do what they wanted to do
Uniforms:
– the battalion wore fatigues to do the work on the tanks
– the soldiers were reprimanded for not wearing dress uniforms 
– they continued to wear fatigues in their barracks area to do their work
– if the soldiers left the battalion’s area, they were expected to wear dress uniforms
– this included going to the PX
Recreation:
– the soldiers spent their free time bowling, going to the movies,
– they also played horseshoes, softball, badminton, or threw a football around
– on Wednesday afternoons, they went swimming
– they also went to Mt. Aarayat National Park and swam in the swimming pool there that was filled with mountain water
– men were allowed to go to Manila in small groups
– they also went to canoeing at Pagsanjan Falls in their swimsuits
– the country was described as being beautiful
Alert:
– 1 December 1941
– tanks ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field
– 194th guarded north end of the airfield with 192nd guarding the southern portion
– two crew members of each tank and half-track remained with the vehicle at all times
– meals served by food trucks
– those not assigned to a tank or half-track remained at the command post
Engagements:
– Battle of Luzon – 8 December 1941 – 6 January 1942
– 8 December 1941
– Clark Field – lived through the attack on the airfield
– after attack 194th sent to a bivouac three kilometers north of Clark Field
– from there they were sent to Barrio of San Joaquin on the Malolos Road
– 12 December 1941
– moved to new bivouac south to San Fernando near Calumpit Bridge
– arrived 6:00 A.M.
– medical detachment maintained a field hospital in the same general area that the tank companies were fighting
– C Company ordered to Southern Luzon
– 15 December 1941
– C Company holding Tagaytay Bridge – South Luzon
– spent most of the time chasing down Fifth Columnists
– 24 December 1941
– the company moved over Taal Road to Santo Tomas
– bivouacked near San Paolo
– 25 December 1941
– sent to assist in operations around Lucena, Pagbilao, and Lucban
– 24/25 December 1941
– sent to Carmen Area on Agno River – arrived at 7:00 P.M.
– 5th Columnists sent up flares
– ran into Japanese resistance but successfully crossed the river
– 25/26 December 1941
– held south bank of Agno River from west of Carmen to Carmen-Akcaka-Bautista Road
– 1 platoon of D Co., 192nd held are west of Highway 13
– 192nd held from Carmen to Route 3 to Tayug to the northeast of San Quintin
– 192nd ordered to withdraw but the 194th never received the order
– 26/27 December 1941
– ordered to withdraw
– learned from 1st Lt. Harold Costigan that they were behind enemy lines and would have to fight their way out
– 1 platoon forced its way through Carmen
– lost two tanks
– one tank belonged to company commander – Captain Edward Burke
– believed dead, but was actually captured
– one tank crew rescued
– new line Santa Ignacia-Gerona-Santo Tomas-San Jose
– rest of battalion made a dash out
– lost one tank at Bayambang
– another tank went across front receiving fire and firing on Japanese
– 2nd Lt. Weeden Petree’s platoon fought its way out and across Agno River
– D Company, 192nd, lost all its tanks except one
– the tank commander found a crossing
– Japanese would use tanks later on Bataan
– 28 December 1941
– Tarlac Line
– most of the battalion withdrew from the line that night
– 29/30 December 1941
– the new line at Bamban River established
– tank battalions held the line until ordered to withdraw
– 30/31 December 1941
– tank battalions held Calumpit Bridge
– covering withdraw of Philippine Divisions south on Rt. 3, San Fernando
– 2 January 1942
– both tank battalions ordered to withdrawal to Lyac Junction
– 194th withdrew there on Highway 7
– 5 January 1942
– rejoined rest of 194th at Guagua
– took position on the road between Sexmoan and Lubao with five SPMs
– ambushed a Japanese force of 750 to 800 attempting to cut the highway
– Japanese lost half their force
– Labao was burning when tanks left the area
– 6 January 1942
– Remedios – a new defensive line established along a dry creek bed
– 1:50 A.M. – Japanese attempted to infiltrate the line
– bright moon made them easy to see
– tanks opened up on them
– Japanese laid down smoke which blew back into them
– 3:00 A.M.
– Japanese broke off the attack
– 6/7 January 1942 – tank battalions withdraw across the bridge at Culis Creek at night
– 194th withdraw across the bridge covered by 192nd
– bridge destroyed after 192nd crossed bridge
– Battle of Bataan – 7 January 1942 – 9 April 1942
– January 1942
– tank companies reduced to three tanks per platoon
– 8 January 1942
– composite tank company made up of tanks from the 192nd and 194th sent to protect East Coast Road north of Hermosa
– their job was to keep the East Road open north of Hermosa and prevent the Japanese from driving into Bataan before the main battle line had been
  formed
– remainder of tanks ordered to bivouac for night south of Aubucay-Hacienda Road
– tankers had been fighting for a month without a rest
– tanks also needed overdue maintenance
– 17th Ordnance
– all tank companies reduced to ten tanks
– three per tank platoon
– sent to reopen Moron Road so General Segunda’s forces could withdraw
– tanks knock out an anti-tank gun
– two tanks disabled by landmines but recovered
– mission abandoned
– Gen. Segunda’s troops escaped using beach but lost their heavy equipment
– 12 January 1942
– C Company, with D Company, 192nd, sent to Cadre Road
– forward position with little alert time
– 13 January 1942
– mines planted by ordnance prevented them from reaching Cadre Road
– returned to battalion
– 16 January 1942
– C Company sent to Bagac to reopen Moron Highway
– highway had been cut by Japanese
– Moron Highway, and Junction of Trail 162
– tank platoon fired on by antitank gun
– tanks knock out gun
– cleared roadblock with support of infantry
– 20 January 1942
– Bani Bani Road -tanks sent in to save 31st Infantry command post
– 24 January 1942
– tanks order to Hacienda Road in support of troops
– landmines planted by ordnance prevented them from reaching road
– 26 January 1942
– the battalion held a position a kilometer north of the Pilar-Bagac Road
– four self-propelled mounts with the battalion
– 9:45 A.M. – warned by Filipino a large Japanese force was coming
– when the enemy appeared they opened up with all the battalion had
– 10:30 A.M. – Japanese withdrew after losing 500 of 1200 men
– prevented new defensive line being formed from being breached
– 28 January 1942
– 194th tanks given beach duty protecting southern beaches
– guarded coast from Limay to Cabcaben
– half-tracks patrolled roads
– maintained radio contact with on-shore and off-shore patrols
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.”
– February 1942
– tank battalions on their own guarded airfields
– battalions also guarded beaches to prevent Japanese from landing troops
– March 1942
– two tanks were bogged down in mud
– the tankers were working to get them out
– Japanese Regiment entered the area
– Lt. Col. Miller ordered tanks and artillery to fire at point-blank range
– Miller ran from tank to tank directing fire
– wiped out Japanese regiment
– 3 April 1942
– Japanese launch new offensive
– tanks sent into various sectors to stop the Japanese advance
– 6 April 1942
– four tanks sent to support 45th Philippine Infantry and 75th Infantry, Philippine Scouts
– one tank knocked out by anti-tank fire at the junction of Trails 8 & 6
– other tanks covered withdraw
– 3rd Platoon sent up the west coast road
– near Mt. Samat the tanks ran into heavy Japanese force
– the tanks withdrew to Marivales
– 8 April 1942
– Gen. Edward P. King decided that further resistance was futile since approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight
– he estimated they would last one more day
– In addition, he had over 6,000 troops who 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.
At 6:00 P.M. that 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.”
– 10:30 P.M. – decision made to send white flag across the battle line
– 11:40 P.M. – ammunition dumps were blown up
– At 2:oo A.M. April 9, Gen. King sent a jeep under a white flag (The driver was from the tank group and the white flag was bedding from A Company, 192nd
   Tank Battalion)
 carrying Colonel Everett C. Williams, Col. James V. Collier and Major Marshall Hurt to meet
   with the Japanese commander about terms of surrender.
– Shortly after daylight Collier and Hunt returned with word of the appointment
– the tankers received this message over their radios at 6:45 A.M. – 9 April 1942
– circled tanks and fired an armor-piercing shell into each tank’s engine
– opened gasoline cocks and dropped grenades into the crew compartment
– Gen. King with his two aides, Maj. 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 and the jeeps were provided by the tank group and both men 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 the Japanese command would arrive to do the negotiations
– The Japanese officer also told him that his troops would no attack for thirty minutes while King decided what he would do
– After a half-hour, no Japanese officer had arrived from their headquarters and the Japanese attack had resumed. King sent Col. Collier and Maj. Hunt back
   to his command with instructions that any unit inline with the Japanese advance should fly white flags
– Shortly after this was done a Japanese colonel and interpreter arrived. King was told the officer was Homma’s Chief of Staff and he had come to discuss
   King’s surrender
– King attempted to get insurances from the Japanese that his men would be treated as prisoners of war, but the Japanese officer – through his interpreter
– he was accused 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
Prisoner of War:
– 9 April 1942
– received order to destroy equipment and report to kilometer marker 168.2.
– Provisional Tank Group Headquarters
– Japanese officers told Col. Ernest Miller to keep them there until ordered to move
– 10 April 1942
– 7:00 P.M. – started the march from Provisional Tank Group headquarters
– 3:00 A.M. – halted and rested for an hour
– 4:00 A.M. – resume march
– at times slipped on remains of the dead who had been killed by Japanese shelling
– 11 April 1942
– 8:00 A.M. -reached Lamao
– allowed to forage for food
– 9:00 A.M. – resumed march
– Noon – reached Limay and the main road
– officers, majors and up, separated from lower-ranking officers and enlisted men
– Death March
– 4:00 P.M officers put on trucks
– officers arrived at Balanga
– Japanese find a handgun in the field bag of an officer
– he was clubbed and bayoneted
– because of this, they were not fed
– Dusk – officers ordered to form ranks and marched
– marched through Abucay and Samal
– 12 April 1942
– 3:00 A.M. – officers reached Orani
– herded into a fenced-in area and ordered to lie down
– in the morning found they had been lying in human waste
– latrine in one corner was crawling with maggots
– Noon – fed rice and salt
– first meal
– Afternoon – lower-ranking officers and enlisted men arrive at Orani
– 6:30 P.M. – ordered to form 100 men detachments
– POWs marched at a faster pace
– fewer breaks
– when given break, the POWs sat on the road
– North of Hermosa the POWs reached pavement
– made march easier
– 13 April 1942
– 2:00 A.M. – POWs were given an hour rest on the road
– those who attempt to lay down are jabbed with bayonets
– POWs march through Layac and Lubao
– rains – POWs drank as much as they could
– 4:30 P.M. – reached San Fernando
– POWs put in groups of 200 to be fed
– one POW sent to get a box of rice for each group
– pottery jars of water given out the same way
– 14 April 1942
– 4:00 A.M. – POWs awakened
– formed detachments of 100 men and marched to train station
– POWs put into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane
– 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
– 9:00 A.M. – Capas – dead fell to the floor as living left boxcars
– as POWs formed ranks, Filipinos threw sugarcane to POWs
– also gave them water
– POWs walked last 8 kilometers 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 were 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 medics 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 scraped and covered with lime to clean it
– the dead were moved to the cleaned area and the area where they had lain was scraped and covered 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
– In May, his parents received a message from the War Department

“Dear Mrs. L. Gravitt:

        “According to War Department records, you have been designated as the emergency addressee of Private Lyle R. Gravitt, 20, 949, 814, who, according to the latest information available, was serving in the  Philippine Islands at the time of the final surrender. 

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

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

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

                                                                                                                                                                    “Very Truly yours

                                                                                                                                                                            J. A. Ulio (signed) 

– Cabanatuan #1
– original name – Camp Pangatian
– Philippine Army Base built for 91st Philippine Army Division
– put into use by the Japanese as a POW camp
– actually three camps
– Camp 1: POWs from Camp O’Donnell sent there in an attempt to lower the death rate
– Camp 2: two 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
– camp created to keep Corregidor POWs separated from Bataan POWs
– Corregidor POWs were in better shape
– January 1943 – POWs from Camp 3 consolidated into Camp 1
– Camp Administration:
– the Japanese left POWs to run the camp on their own
– Japanese entered camp when they had a reason
– POWs patrolled fence to prevent escapes
– Note: men who attempted to escape were recaptured
– Japanese beat them for days
– executed them
– Blood Brother Rule
– POWs put into groups of ten
– if one escaped the others would be executed
– housed in same barracks
– worked on details together
– Barracks:
– each barracks held 50 men
– often held between 60 and 120 men
– slept on bamboo slats without mattresses, covers, and mosquito netting
– diseases spread easily
– no showers
– Morning Roll Call:
– stood at attention
– frequently beaten over their heads for no reason
– 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 when they didn’t like the way the POWs looked
– Work Details:
– Two main details
– the farm and airfield
– farm detail
– POWs cleared land and grew camotes, cassava, taro, sesame, and various greens
– Japanese took what was grown
– Guards:
– Big Speedo – spoke little English
– in charge of the detail
– fair in the treatment of POWs
– spoke little English
– to get POWs to work faster said, “speedo”
– Little Speedo
– fair in the treatment of POWs
– Smiley
– always smiling
– could not be trusted
– meanest of guards
– Airfield Detail:
– Japanese built an airfield for fighters
– POWs cut grass, removed dirt, and leveled ground
– at first moved dirt in wheelbarrows
– later pushed mining cars
Guards:
– Air Raid
– in charge
– usually fair but unpredictable
– had to watch him
– Donald Duck
– always talking
– sounded like the cartoon character
– unpredictable – beat POWs
– POWs told him that Donald Duck was a big American movie star
– at some point, he saw a Donald Duck cartoon
– POWs stayed away from him when he came back to camp
– Work Day: 7:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.
– worked 6 days a week
– had Sunday off
– Other Details:
– work details sent out to cut wood for POW kitchens and plant rice
– 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
– Burial Detail
– POWs worked in teams of four
– carried 4 to 6 dead to the cemetery at a time in litters
– a grave contained from 15 to 20 bodies
– daily POW meal
– 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, sweet potato or corn
– rice was the main staple, few vegetables or fruits
– 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
– medical staff had little to no medicine to treat sick
– many deaths from disease caused by malnutrition
– hospitalized – 7 June 1942 – malaria
– discharged – 7 December 1942
– it was while he was hospitalized that his parents received a 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, Private Lyle R. Gravitt 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.”

– Lipa Batangas
– January 1943 – detail leaves camp
– POWs built runways with picks and shovels at Lipa Airfield
– worked on the farm every other day
– 25 March 1944 – a large group of POWs transferred to Cabanatuan
– September 1944 – detail ended
– POWs sent to Bilibid Prison
– it is not known when his parents were notified that he was a Prisoner of War
Hell Ship:
Hokusen Maru
– Boarded: 21 September 1944
– Sailed: Manila – 3 October 1944
– Arrived: Hong Kong – 11 October 1944
– attacked by American planes while in port
– Sailed: 21 October 1944
– Arrived: Takao, Formosa – 24 October 1944
– Disembarked: 8 November 1944
POW Camp:
– Formosa
Inrin Temporary
Hell Ship:
Melbourne Maru
– Sailed: Takao, Formosa – 25 January 1945
– Arrived: Moji, Japan – 30 January 1945
POW Camp:
– Japan
Ashio #9
Note: Camp 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 barracks that were inadequately heated and during the cold nights, the POWs had only thin blankets to cover themselves with. The Red Cross blankets that were sent to the camp, for the POWs, were issued to the guards.
The Japanese appropriated 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.

The POWs worked in the Ashio Copper mine which had been closed but reopened because of the war. Safety regulations in the mine were almost none existent and POWs were frequently injured. A number of POWs were transferred in May 1945.

Sendai #7-B
– 14 May 1945 – POWs arrived
– every other day after arriving the POWs collected wood
– empty barracks in the camp filled with wood
– POWs barracks were not insulated
– snow on the roof provided insulation
– at one point during the winter, the Japanese did not issue wood for days
– Clothing:
– POWs had to turn in his clothing, except for one set of clothes when they arrived at the camp
– POWs also had to turn in their shoes and were issued grass shoes
– issued 1 shirt, 1 underwear, 1 short or trousers, a work uniform made of wood pulp, a summer
headgear, a pair of gloves that lasted two weeks, overcoats were issued but could not be worn to
work, leggings were also issued
– Punishment:
– when a rule was broken the Japanese made the POWs stand attention for long periods of time
– POWs were not fed or given water
– during the winter this was done in the cold
– POWs were punched, kicked, hit with pick handles, wooden bayonets, and jiu-jitsu was used on them
– on one occasion when fish was stolen, the POWs were denied to the POWs until the fish was returned
– the POWs who stole it were beaten
– The POWs who attempted to sneak greens into the camp for their food were beaten
– POWs denied Red Cross Packages
– Work:
Note: In Japan, Earl was held as a POW at Sendai #7, where the men worked in a copper mine owned by the Kajima Corporation. During the winter, the POWs had to often walk through snow that was two feet deep up the side of a mountain, and down into the mine.

The POWs believed these supervisors wanted to work them to death. At the mine, the POWs were divided among drillers, car loaders, and car pushers, with the miners having the worst job. The work in the mine was dirty, dangerous, and difficult. Each miner received a carbide headlamp as his only lighting. A quota was set but the Japanese and the Japanese were always raising the quota. The number of carloads mined by the men was never enough.

Beatings were given for not working hard enough or fast enough. Many shafts of the mine were so low that the miners had to crawl through to get to the ore. Some shafts had standing water with threats of sudden flooding. Lighting was poor and most areas were not even shored up to prevent cave-ins. Accidents were frequent and many POWs were hurt. There was no gas detecting equipment and there was always the danger of setting off an explosion from the open burning carbide headlamps.

The POWs worked in their cotton undershirts and shorts and a fiber work uniform, leggings, and a hat. They were not permitted to cover their ears and had to work in the rain or blizzards. The POWs who were weak and sick and could not keep up with the pace of work were beaten.

Liberated:
– September 1945

“=MR AND MRS J GRAVITT: THE SECRETARY OF WAR HAS ASKED ME TO INFORM YOU THAT YOUR SON, PVT LYLE R GRAVITT WAS RETURNED TO MILITARY CONTROL SEPT 12 AND IS BEING RETURNED TO THE UNITED STATES WITHIN THE NEAR FUTURE HE WILL BE GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO COMMUNICATE WITH YOU UPON HIS ARRIVAL IF HE HAS NOT ALREADY DONE SO=

“E. F. WITSELL

“ACTING ADJUTANT GENERAL OF THE ARMY”

– former POWs were taken by train to Yokohama
– 12 September 1945 – processed on the U.S.S. Rescue
– Sailed: taken by the U.S.S. San Juan to Okinawa
– transferred to another ship and taken to the Philippines
– Arrived: Manila – Date no known
– received further medical treatment
– Boarded: U.S.S. Joseph T. Dyckman
– Sailed: 25 or 26 September 1945
– Arrived: Pearl Harbor, Hawaii – Date not known
– Sailed: 25 September 1945 – 6:00 A.M.
– returned to dock because port engine intake was blocked
– Sailed: 11:10 A.M.
– Arrived: 9 October 1945 – Pearl Harbor
– Sailed: 10 October 1945 – 4:00 P.M.
-Arrived: 16 October 1945 – San Francisco, California
– sent to Letterman General Hospital
Discharged: 10 April 1946
Selective Service Registration: 22 April 1946
– he did not register before the war since he was in the National Guard
– registration card indicated he had been discharged from the Army
Residence: Coon Rapids, Iowa
Married: Luwayne Hornback
– wife passed away in 1964
Children: 3 daughters
Died:
– 21 April 1984 – Pontiac, Michigan
Buried:
– Ottawa Park Cemetery – Clarkston, Michigan

Default Gravesite 1

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