PFC Willard Ewalt Hall
Born: 8 November 1920 – Baker, Oregon
Parents: John Hall and Elizabeth Hall
Siblings: 1 step-sister
Home: 1603 Cherry Street, LeGrande, Union County, Oregon
– Oregon National Guard
Selective Service Registration: 16 October 1940
Contact person: Mrs. William Riordan – mother
Reenlisted: Oregon National Guard
– U.S. Army
– 10 September 1940 – LeGrande, Oregon
– entered Army from Oregon National Guard
– Camp Murray, Washington
– promoted to corporal
– may have been a mechanic
– Fort Lewis, Washington
– replaced a National Guardsman released from federal service
– joined the battalion as it prepared to go overseas
– had never trained on a tank
– 194th Tank Battalion
– took a demotion in rank to Private First Class to join the battalion
– On August 15, 1941, from Ft. Knox, Kentucky, the 194th received orders for duty in the Philippines because of an event that happened during the summer.
– A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots noticed something odd
– He took his plane down and identified a buoy, with a flag, in the water. He came upon more flagged buoys that lined up – in a straight line – for 30 miles
to the northwest, in the direction of a Japanese occupied island, with a large radio transmitter, hundreds of miles away.
– The squadron continued its flight plane and flew south to Mariveles and then returned to Clark Field. When the planes landed, it was too late to do
anything that day.
– The next day – when planes were sent to the area – the buoys had been picked up and a fishing boat – with a tarp covering something on its deck – was
seen making its way toward shore.
– communication between the Air Corps and the Navy was poor, so the boat escaped
– the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines
– 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 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
– took a southerly route away from main shipping lanes
– escorted by the heavy cruiser, U.S.S. Astoria, and an unknown destroyer, and the U.S.S. Guadalupe, a replenishment oiler
– smoke was seen on the horizon several times
– cruiser intercepted several ships
– all were from neutral countries
– Tuesday, 16 September 1941 – ships crossed International Dateline
– became Thursday, 18 September 1941
– Arrived: Manila – Friday – 26 September 1941
– disembark ship – 3:00 P.M.
– taken by bus to Fort Stotsenburg
– lived in tents until barracks completed – 15 November 1941
– Battle of Luzon – 8 December 1941 – 6 January 1942
– 8 December 1941
– lived Japanese attack on Clark Field
– planes did not go after tanks
– 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 at 6:00 A.M.
– 15 December 1941
– received 15 Bren gun carriers
– turned some over to 26th Cavalry, Philippine Scouts
– 22 December 1941
– sent to Rosario
– west and north of the barrio
– ordered out of the 71st Division Commander
– said they would hinder the cavalry’s operation
– 22/23 December 1941
– operating north of Agno River
– main bridge at Carmen bombed
– 24/25 December 1941
– tank battalions made an end run to get south of Agno River
– 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
– 192nd held from Carmen to (Route 3) to Tayug (northeast of San Quintin)
– 26/27 December 1941
– ordered to withdraw
– 1 platoon forced its way through Carmen
– lost two tanks
– one tank belonged to the 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
– 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
– 29/30 December 1941
– 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
– C Company and A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion, withdrew from Guagua-Porac Line and moved into position between Sexmoan and Lubao
– 1:50 A.M. – Japanese attempted to infiltrate
– bright moonlight made them easy to see
– tanks opened fire
– Japanese lay down smoke which blew back into them
– 3:00 A.M. – Japanese broke off the engagement
– suffered 50% casualties
– Remedios – established a new line along a dried creek bed
– 6/7 January 1942
– 194th, covered by 192nd, crosses Culis Creek into Bataan
– both battalions bivouacked south of Aubucay-Hacienda Road
– rations cut in half
– 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
– 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 the beach but lost their heavy equipment
– 12 January 1942
– C Company, with D Company, 192nd, sent to Cadre Road
– a 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
– the highway had been cut by Japanese
– Moron Highway, and Junction of Trail 162
– tank platoon fired on by antitank gun
– tanks knock out the 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 the 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. Ernest Miller ordered tanks and artillery to fire at point-blank range
– Miller ran from tank to tank directing fire
– wiped out Japanese regiment
– 4 April 1942
– Japanese launched a major 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 ran into heavy Japanese force
– the tanks withdrew to Marivales
– 8 April 1942
– fighting on East Coast Road at Cabcaban
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. – 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
– escaped to Corregidor night of surrender
– 6 May 1942
– remained on the beach for two weeks
– 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 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
– September 1942 – Camps 1 & 3 consolidated
– “Blood Brother” rule implemented
– if one POW in the group of 10 escaped, the other nine would be killed
– POWs patrolled fence to prevent escapes
– 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
– Work Details:
– Work Day: 7:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.
– work details sent out to cut wood for POW kitchens, plant rice, and farm
– 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
– most of the food the POWs grew went to the Japanese
– 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
– October 1942 – The Japanese needed 1000 POWs to go on a work detail to Davao
– On October 24, the POWs were marched to the barrio of Cabanatuan
– they were loaded into boxcars, and sent by train to Manila arriving in the afternoon – During the trip, the doors of the boxcars were left open so there was
– they arrived at Manila but remained in the boxcars until after dark
– after dark, they were marched through the empty streets to Bilibid Prison
– Once at Bilibid, they were fed mutton soup and rice.
– The next day they were assembled in 100 men formations
– marched to the Port Area of Manila where they boarded the Erie Maru
– The hold was divided into box spaces and twelve men were assigned to each box.
– There was only enough room in a box for six men to sleep at a time.
– The POWs quickly became infested with bedbugs and lice.
– The hold smelled from the gasoline that was being stored in it
– it quickly was joined by the smell of human excrement.
– The next morning the POWs were fed rice and spinach soup.
– At noon, they received rice and dried fish.
– For dinner, they had corned beef and rice.
– The POWs assigned to cooking discovered the Japanese officers had a large stock of captured American pork and slipped it to the men in the holds
– many of the POWs developing dysentery
– The trip to Lasang took thirteen days
– the ship made stops at Iloilo, Panay, and Cebu, Mindanao
– At Iloilo, they buried one man who had died.
– November 7 – the POWs arrived at Lansang
– The POWs were in such bad shape that the ranking Japanese officer, Major Mida, ordered them fed.
– They ate pork and beef, rice cabbage pinch, squash onions, potatoes, and peanuts which were all produced on the farm.
– From the orchards, they were given fruit which included raw and cooked plantains. – The sick were given medical treatment and there was enough water
for drinking, bathing, and laundry.
– When the recuperation took too long, their diet was cut to rice and greens soup.
Various Work Details:
– 30 men were assigned to work as carpenters, 25 POWs worked in the orchards, 50 POWs made rope, 20 POWs worked the bodega (storeroom) detail, and
for four months the POWs cut and picked coffee.
– smaller details – 2 to 35 men that lasted weeks or months
– other details were continuous, such as the farm detail that 250 to 300 POWs worked on plowing fields and harvesting crops.
– 50 to 100 POWs were sent to a plantation and given the job of building roads
– In the opinion of the POWs, they did more damage than good and intentionally kept the roads impassable.
– The Japanese decided that they were getting nowhere, so they sent the POWs to the ricefields to plant rice.
– 350 to 750 POWs were used in the rice fields.
– The POWs were responsible for planting 1600 acres of rice
– The POWs attempted to grow as little rice as possible and would drop the rice stalks in the mud and “unintentionally” step on them.
– The number of POWs on the detail varied
– planting and harvesting took more men.
– Many of the POWs became ill with what was called, “Rice Sickness”
– This illness was caused by the POWs cutting their feet or legs on a rice stalk.
– The POWs developed a rash and suffered from severe swelling.
– POWs who bruised themselves often developed ulcers
– POWs moved to Lasang and built runways and revetments
– 550 POWs worked on the airfield at Lasang each day
– 50 POWs went to coral pits at Trabuco
– dug coral broke it up, and loaded it on trucks
– coral was used as surface of the airfield’s new runway
– Most, if not all the prisoners, suffered from malaria.
– At first, the work details were not guarded as the POWs plowed, planted, and harvested the crops.
– The sick POWs, who could not do this work, made baskets.
– In April 1943, the POWs working conditions varied.
– The treatment the POWs at this time changed.
– Those POWs working the rice fields received the worst treatment.
– They were beaten for not meeting quotas, and there were misunderstandings between the POWs and guards.
– In addition, the translator could not be trusted to tell the truth.
– Beatings were common
– usually, the guards slapped the POWs in their faces
– on occasion, there were severe beatings
– This occurred if the Japanese suspected the POWs were planning an escape.
– POWs made to kneel on the sharp edge of a railroad rail
– sticks placed behind their knees
– when one POW was caught stealing tin snips he was stripped naked
– “Little Caesar,” Lt. Hashimoto, used judo on him
– POWs were hit across the face, thrown to the ground kicked in his groin, kicked in other parts of his body
– his face was stamped on with Little Caesar’s boots
– the beating went on for an hour
– dragged to the kitchen where he had stolen the snips and had to reenact the crime
– afterward, he was beaten again for another three hours
– thrown into guardhouse for 21 days
– made to stand at attention, kneel for an hour, then stand halfway erect
– stood at attention 18 hours a day
– beaten every day
Willard stated that during his time as a POW, he only met one good Japanese Guard, “Big Stoop brought me quinine and food when I had malaria. He saved my life. He didn’t beat any of our men like the other Japs did.”
– The POWs were still receiving three meals – which were measured – with a sardine tin – a day
– they received one water buffalo a week but they were being worked harder and longer
– At times, after the POWs had slaughtered the water buffalo and had it ready to cook it, the Japanese made them bury it.
– Trees at the experimental farm were loaded with bananas, oranges, and other fruits – these fell to the ground and rotted since the POWs were not allowed
to eat them
– 4 April 1943 – Capt. William Dyess, LTC Melvyn McCoy, Maj. Stephen Mellnik, Maj. Michael Dobervitch, and another POW
– the 600 remaining POWs from their barracks were moved to another compound
– their rations reduced and they were confined to quarters
– they were physically abused
– they were not allowed to sit down
– The Japanese commanding officer ordered and allowed collectives punishment on all the POWs.
– If the POWs were found to have food on them when they returned from work, they were brutally beaten.
– At night the guards walked through the barracks a poked the sleeping POWs with bamboo poles to disrupt their sleep.
– two other POWs escaped
– 22 other POWs were confined to the guardhouse for ten days.
– They were made to stand at attention all day in the cells.
– The cells were eight feet long and three and one-half feet wide.
– Eleven prisoners were put into each cell
– At night they were beaten with sticks when they attempted to lie down
– They were fed one meal a day of rice with a little salt.
– The Japanese ended the detail at the farm
– 2 March 1944 – the POWs to Lasang
– The POWs thought that it would not be as bad as the farm; they were wrong.
– The barracks of the POWs were only 400 yards from the airfield.
– The POWs believed this was done so if American planes attacked, they would kill their own countrymen.
– 550 POWs either built runways
– other POWs were sent to a quarry to mine coral for runways
– The POWs dug out the coral, broke it up, and loaded it onto trucks that were driven to the airfield.
– When the POWs slowed the pace of their work down, the Japanese resorted to torture to get them to work.
– American forces got closer to the Philippines
– 6 June 1944 – half of the POWs returned to Manila
– August 1944
– at 2:00 A.M. an American plane dropped four bombs on the runway away from the POW barracks
– no other air raids took place at the airfield
– POWs believed it was because the pilot recognized the barracks as being a POW camp
– American planes started to bomb nearby airfields nightly
– they also could hear the bombing of Japanese ships
– POWs noticed Japanese planes flying from airfield were loaded with bombs and carried extra fuel tanks
– all work stopped on the airfield
– food rations of those who remained behind were cut to a single cup of rice a day
– POWs raided Japanese garbage for remnants of vegetables
– many ate weeds that grew inside the camp compound
– fruit growing on the trees fell to the ground and rotted
– soon compound was bare
– POWs were lined up in fours
– two men on both ends of each four POWs had a rope tied to their outside hands
– rope tied to men in front of them and behind them
– marched shoe-less to the Tabunco Pier and arrived at noon
– Boarded: Erie Maru
– packed into the ship’s two holds
– 400 POWs in the forward hold
– 350 POWs in the rear hold
– several tons of Japanese luggage also put in the hold
– holds were hot with no ventilation
According to Pvt. Walter Alexander: “An hour after the hatch was closed men began to pass out. We started to break out with heat rash. We couldn’t move. We didn’t nearly have enough water.
“The hatch was opened at night but clamped down as soon as daylight came.”
– next morning an American plane dropped a bomb that exploded near the ship
– hatch covers were put on holds and the POWs began to pass out
Alexander said, “We were still off Davao the next morning when the bombers came over. I think they were B-24s. We felt the concussion as the bombs hit near the ship. The boat rocked and the plates rang. We estimated that one bomb missed by maybe 100 feet.
“The ship pulled out during the bombing. The next day the escort ships dropped depth charges. We were in the hold three days to Zamboanga. We laid there 12 days still in the hold. A couple of boys went crazy.”
– hatch covers were not removed for 2 hours
– several more alerts happened for the next three days
– Sailed: 6:00 P.M. on the third day
– Arrived: Zamboanga
– remained there 10 days
– POWs remained in holds
– twice the POWs were allowed on deck and ran through a hose spraying saltwater
– Shinyo Maru
– 4 September 1944 – transferred to Shinyo Maru
– 250 POWs were put in the ship’s smaller hold
– 500 POWs were put into its larger hold.
– that night, bombs from American planes landed alongside the ship rocking and shaking it
– the POWs prayed that the ship would be hit by a bomb
Of this, Alexander said, “Then we changed ships. They lowered a ladder in the hold and in our condition we had a hard time getting up. A lot of the men were in bad shape and a few had to be helped up.
“The fresh air felt good and the sunshine was blinding. There was another ship tied close by and were transferred to it. In this ship, they put 500 men in one hold and 250 in another. I was with the 500.”
– 5 September 1944 – the ship sailed at 2:00 A.M.
– headed north in a zigzag pattern in an attempt to avoid submarines
– POWs were no longer allowed on deck
– heir lips and throats were covered with dust from cement that had previously been hauled by the ship
Alexander said, “This time we were right down in the bottom of the ship. Again there was barely enough room for men to sit down. What was worse, the ship had been carrying cement and we sat on an inch of cement dust. Any movement stirred up cement dust and made it almost impossible to breathe. The stench in this hold was as bad as the other.
“Our officers told us to sit still. We sat still. We sailed the same night and were down there two days
– The ship was now part of a convoy designated as C-076.
– the POWs had not heard any air raid alerts, they assumed that they were safe
– U.S. Military misinterpreted an intercepted Japanese message
– it stated the ship was carrying military prisoners.
– It was misread as the ship was carrying military personnel.
– the U.S.S. Paddle was sent to intercept the ship.
– the convoy came under attack
– bombs from American planes landed alongside the ship at night rocking and shaking ship
– for the next two days, the ship made good time
– it was at this time that the Japanese guards threatened to kill the POWs if the ship came under attack by American planes.
Pfc. Victor Mapes talked about being in the ship’s hold, “I was down in the hold with 750 other Americans. They had us stripped down to G-strings. We’d left 22 days before from the southern Philippines — Davao.”
– 4:00 P.M. the U.S.S Paddle spotted the convoy off the west coast of Mindanao at Sindangan Point and attacked
– Pfc. Mapes recalled the event, “The Jap freighter Number 83 — was ripped apart by the Sub’s torpedo.”
– Japanese suddenly removed the hatch covers.
– Of the event, Sgt. Onnie Clem, U.S.M.C. said: “We looked up to see the Japs at both entrances with machine guns pointed at us. They started firing, spraying lead in among the prisoners. Several hand grenades exploded among us.”
– Sgt. Verle Cutter said, “We were in the hold wondering where they were taking us this time when the hatch was ripped open, we looked up to see Japs at both entrances with machine-guns pointed at us. They started firing, spraying lead, in among the prisoners. Several hand-grenades were thrown down among us exploded. How many of us were killed no one will ever know because then it happened.
“A loud explosion rocked the ship, and in the blackness of the hold, we could hear the vessel cracking up. Then after another explosion sounded in the aft hold of the vessel. We knew the ship had been torpedoed. Those Japs had tried to machine-gun and grenade us to prevent our possible escape.”
– 4:37 P.M. – two torpedoes were fired at the ship
– The first torpedo hit the ship in its main hold
– Moments later, a second torpedo hit the ship in its aft hold.
– There was a gaping hole in the ship’s side.
1st Lieutenant Harvey Denson said: “We were so crowded that we could not move, sit or sleep at one time. The hatches were tied down. They even begrudged us air. Men were passing out all around me for lack of air.
“They fed us two handfuls of rice and a canteen of water a day. We were completely dehydrated after the second day in the sweltering heat of the ship’s innards and couldn’t have sweated a drop if we tried.”
Clem recalled what it was like when the torpedoes hit. “All I could see was orange. The next thing I knew I was floating in the air…I felt like I was among fluffy balls of cotton. (He was floating in the water and the fluffy balls were the bodies of the dead or other men trying to get out.) I thought, ‘Hell, I’m dead. This is what it’s like when you’re dead.”
As the water level rose, the POWs were able to climb out of the hold. Seven Japanese officers were on the bridge with rifles. As the POWs emerged from the hold, they picked them off. The lucky POWs made it through their fire and dove into the water.
The POWs in the smaller hold were also wounded from the torpedo hits. But, the hold remained dry. Many of these POWs also were able to make it onto the deck and attempted to swim to shore. As they swam, they were fired upon by the same seven Japanese officers.
According to the POWs in the water, the Shinyo Maru began to capsize. There was a tremendous crushing sound and the ship seemed to bend upward in the middle. It split in two and sunk into the water.
Japanese seaplanes dropped depth charges in an attempt to sink the American submarine. The good thing about the depth charges was that they kept sharks away from the POWs. When they spotted the POWs in the water, they strafed them. They stopped when they realized that there were Japanese in the water too.
A Japanese tanker that had been hit by torpedoes spilled oil and gasoline into the water. The ship ran aground. The Japanese quickly set up machine guns and fired on the POWs. Boats from the other ships in the convoy attempted to hunt down the POWs swimming in the water. If they found a man, they shot him. What saved many lives was that with dusk it became harder for the Japanese to see them.
Pfc. Mapes recalled, “The men began swimming toward shore three miles away — like a herd of sheep. The Japs from the other ships in the convoy were cutting them to pieces. I figured that the only way to survive was to break away from the bunch and swim to the opposite side.”
One officer recalled seeing a young soldier struggling in the water and asked him if he could swim. The soldier replied, “No sir, not very well.” The officer began to say, “Don’t worry, we’ll make it somehow,” but before he could finish, a shot rang out the young soldier’s head fell into the water. There was a bullet hole in his head. What saved many lives was that with dusk it became harder for the Japanese to see them.
The Japanese announced to the Americans that if they surrendered that they would be treated with compassion. About 30 men gave up after hearing this.
Sgt. Denver R. Rose was one of the 30 men. He recalled, “They tied our hands behind us and took us to another prison ship. They roped us together and stood us in a line along the rail. They then started shooting us one at a time.
“Using his sword a Jap cut the rope to lose the first man in line. He was taken to the stern of the boat and shot in the back. He fell into the water.
“Meanwhile, I found the frayed end of a steel cable by feeling with the fingers behind my back and rubbed the ropes across the sharp edges until I got free. I decided I just as soon be shot trying to get away as the other way, so I made a break for it. I ran to the front of the ship and slipped down into the anchor hole After a while, I heard shooting again, so I let myself down into the water.” Rose was the only man, of the 30 POWs, not to be executed.
Sgt. Jim McComas said, “These Japs took their guns into the lifeboats and cruised around taking potshots at our struggling men.”
Of the 750 POWs who were boarded onto the ship, 82 POWs escaped. Willard was one of these men. After reaching the shore they were rescued by Filipino Guerillas.
Cutter stated, “We walked all night and shortly after daybreak the next morning we saw a Filipino on horseback. He offered to take me to a hiding place as my foot was pretty sore, and said that he would send a runner for the other men to direct them to the hiding place. He said he already had ‘several of your friends.’
“Arriving at the hiding place the Filipinos said they would send for a doctor to treat the wounded. There were several of us. The doctor arrived days later and gangrene had started in some of our wounds.
“The doctor told us that he had walked for days to get us. He treated our wounds the best he could, but he didn’t have much in the way of medical supplies and had to go home and come back to treat us again.”
The Filipinos were so happy to help the Americans that word spread of their rescue. This caused concern among the Americans for their safety. This was even truer when a party was thrown in their honor.
The guerillas made arrangements for the former POWs to be evacuated by an American submarine.
Clem said of this: “When we had about given up hope, the sub appeared and the Filipinos took us out to the craft…several hundred yards offshore…in small native boats.”
Jim and the other POWs boarded the U.S.S. Narwhal on October 20. His family was notified that he had been returned to American Military control on October 26, 1944.
Clem said of boarding the submarine: “There were tears and some of the guys broke down and cried like babies and they were not a darn bit ashamed of it. They gave us sandwiches the first night and the bread tasted like cake. It was the first bread we had in three years. The next morning the 83 of us ate 18 pounds of butter, 36 pounds of sausage, 40 loaves of bread, and eight hotcakes each. The doctor put a stop to that.”
– U.S.S. Narwhal took the former POWs to Australia
– the crew stated they were shocked by the condition of the former POWs
Note: In February 1945, Willard, and other former POWs toured the country and talked to families of men who were still POWs. They were under strict orders not to speak about the conditions in the camps. One of the places he visited was Salinas, California.
Discharged: 21 August 1945
Died: 28 October 1985 – Multnomah County, Oregon
Buried: Mount Hope Cemetery – Baker City, Oregon