Major Richard Coordes Kadel was born on August 13, 1904, in Terre Haute, Indiana, to Phillip H. Kadel and Metta Coodes-Kadel. With his sister, he grew up in Terre Haute, Indiana. He married Kathryn Allison Curd in Cave City, Kentucky. The couple resided on U.S. Highway 70 in Barren, Kentucky. During World War I, he served with the 35th Divison in France. He graduated from college and was a civil engineer with the Civilian Conservation Corps when he enlisted in the army on September 8, 1940.
As a captain, he was the commanding officer of A Company, 19th Ordnance Battalion during its training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. In August the battalion went on maneuvers in Arkansas. While taking part in the maneuvers, he received orders for his company to return to Ft. Knox. Once there, the company was inactivated and activated as the 17th Ordnance Company. On that same day, the company received orders to report to San Francisco.
Traveling west the company was assigned to a train that was also carrying the M3 tanks that were assigned to the 194th Tank Battalion. When they arrived in San Franciso, the company spent two or three days putting cosmoline on the guns of the tanks and removing the turrets because the ceiling of the hold was not tall enough for the tanks to be loaded with them attached. Before removing a turret, the serial number of the tank was spray-painted on the turret so that it would be put back on the tank it came off of.
The soldiers boarded the S.S. President Calvin Coolidge on September 8 at 3:00 P.M. and sailed at 9:00 P.M. for the Philippine Islands. To get the tanks to fit in the ship’s holds, the turrets had serial numbers spray painted on them and were removed from the tanks. The enlisted men were also quartered in the hold. They arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Saturday, September 13 at 7:00 A.M., and most of the soldiers were allowed off the ship to see the island but had to be back on board before the ship sailed at 5:00 P.M.
After leaving Hawaii, the ship took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes. It was at this time that it was joined the U.S.S. Astoria – a heavy cruiser – and the U.S.S. Guadalupe – a replenishment oiler – that were its escorts. During this part of the trip, on several occasions, smoke was seen on the horizon, and the Astoria took off in the direction of the smoke. Each time it was found that the smoke was from a ship belonging to a friendly country.
The ships crossed the International Dateline on Tuesday, September 16, and the date changed to Thursday, September 18. They entered Manila Bay at 7:00 A.M. and reached Manila several hours later. The soldiers disembarked at 3:00 P.M. and were driven on buses to Clark Field. 17th Ordnance remained at the dock to unload the battalion’s tanks and reattach the turrets.
The company rode buses to Fort Stotsenburg and was taken to an area between the fort and Clark Field, where they were housed in tents since General Edward P. King, commanding officer of the fort had learned of their arrival only days earlier. During the first night in the tents, there was heavy rain that caused his footlocker to float out of the tent. They remained in the tents until November 15th when they moved into their barracks.
The barracks’ outside walls were opened and screened from the floors to three feet up the wall. Above that, there was woven bamboo. This design allowed air to pass through the barracks. Sanitation facilities appeared to have been limited and a lucky man was one who was able to wash by a faucet with running water.
The soldiers’ day started at 5:15 with reveille. After washing, breakfast was at 6:00 A.M. The soldiers worked from 7:00 A.M. to 11:30 A.M. Lunch was at noon. They went back to work at 1:30 P.M. and worked until 2:30 P.M. The shorter afternoon work period was based on the belief that it was too hot to work. According to members of the battalion the term “recreation in the motor pool” meant they actually worked until 4:30 in the afternoon. At 5:10, they ate dinner and were free afterward.
For recreation, the soldiers spent their free time bowling or going to the movies on the base. They also played horseshoes, softball, badminton, or threw footballs around during their free time. On Wednesday afternoons, they went swimming.
Off the base, the soldiers went to Mt. Aarayat National Park and swam in the swimming pool there that was filled with mountain water. Men were given the opportunity to be allowed to go to Manila in small groups. They also went to canoeing at Pagsanjan Falls in their swimsuits and described the country was described as being beautiful.
At Ft. Stotsenburg, the soldiers were expected to wear their dress uniforms. Since working on the tanks was a dirty job, the battalion members wore fatigues to do the work on the tanks. When they were discovered working in their fatigues, the soldiers were reprimanded for not wearing dress uniforms while working. The decision was made by Major Ernest Miller to continue wearing fatigues in their barracks area to do their work but if the soldiers left the battalion’s area, they were expected to wear dress uniforms. This included going to the PX.
On December 8, 1941, he lived the bombing of Clark Field. The soldiers were putting down stones for sidewalks when he told them of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The company moved to a bamboo thicket and set up its trucks. Later that morning the alert was canceled and the company was ordered back to Clark Field. The cooks had just finished preparing lunch so they remained in the thicket. While they were eating lunch, at 12:45 the Japanese bombed the airfield. The Zeros that followed strafed the airfield and banked and turned over the thicket to straf the airfield again. They were ordered not to fire because some of the machines they had to manufacture tank parts were the only ones in the Philippines.
The men set up their trucks and were eating lunch in the thicket when planes appeared over the airfield and began bombing. After the bombers were done, they were followed by fighters that strafed the airfield. After attacking, the planes would turn to continue the attack. As it turned out, the planes made their turns right over the thicket they were bivouacked in.
He was promoted to major on December 19, 1941, but never received word of the promotion.
For four months Kadel’s company kept the tanks of the 192nd Tank Battalion and the 194th Battalion running. Often, they had to scavenge parts from other tanks. His company also made landmines from cigar boxes and modified World War I ammunition.
On Bataan, the company set up its headquarters in an empty ordnance depot which was surrounded by ammunition dumps. There they continued repairing damaged tanks and manufacturing tank parts.
The Japanese brought fresh troops to Bataan since the Americans and Filipinos with the help of tropical illnesses had fought the Japanese to a standstill. On April 3, the Japanese launched a major offensive. A large force of Japanese troops came over Mt. Samat and descended down the south face of the volcano. This attack wiped out two divisions of defenders and left a large area of the defensive line open to the Japanese. In an attempt to stop them, the tanks were sent into various sectors. It was also at this time that tanks became the favorite targets of Japanese planes and artillery.
A counter-attack was launched – on April 7 – by the 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts which was supported by tanks. Its objective was to restore the line, but Japanese infiltrators prevented this from happening. During this action, one tank was knocked out but the remaining tanks successfully withdrew. C Company, 194th, was attached to the 192nd and had only seven tanks left.
It was the evening of April 8 that Gen. Edward P. King decided that further resistance was futile, since approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight, and 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. He also believed his troops could fight for one more day.
At 6:30 P.M., the order went out to that all the units should be prepared to destroy all equipment of use to the Japanese. “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.”
At 10:30 P.M., Gen. King made the decision to send a white flag across the battle line. At 11:10, Kadel was given a half-hour to move out of the depot before the ammunition dumps around it were destroyed. The ammunition dumps were blown up at 11:40 P.M.
At 2:oo A.M. April 9, Gen. King sent a jeep under a white flag carrying Colonel Everett C. Williams, Col. James V. Collier, and Major Marshall Hurt to meet with the Japanese commander about terms of surrender. (The driver was from the tank group and the white flag was bedding from A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.) Shortly after daylight Collier and Hunt returned with word of the appointment.
It was at about 6:45 A.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.”
The tank crews circled their tanks. Each tank fired an armor-piercing shell into the engine of the tank in front of it. They also opened the gasoline cocks inside the tank compartments and dropped hand grenades into the tanks. Most of the company waited in their bivouac for the Japanese to make contact, while others attempted to reach Corregidor which had not surrendered.
As Gen. King went to negotiate surrender terms, he passed through the area held by the B company, 192nd Tank Battalion, and where 17th Ordnance had moved to. He talked to the soldiers and told them when they returned home they should never let anyone say to them, “When you get home, don’t ever let anyone say to you, you surrendered. I was the one who surrendered.”
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 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 – accused him 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.
Somewhere between 6:30 and 6:45 on the morning of April 9, the tankers received the order “crash” and destroyed their tanks. The tanks were circled and an armor-piercing shell was fired into the engines of each tank. Afterward, the gasoline cocks were opened in the crew.
It was at this time that Kadel witnessed the Japanese bury alive three Americans three Filipino officers in the basement of a building. The men were too ill from dysentery and malnutrition to continue the march. One man tried to climb out of the basement but was hit in the head with a shovel. In the building, Kadel was interrogated by a Japanese colonel about American ordnance. Since he would not reveal anything to the Japanese officer, he was beaten. Kadel said, “I told him he could go to hell, and then I gave him my name and serial number.” The end result of the beating was that he walked with a cane, the rest of his life, because of the back injuries he suffered.
Somehow Kadel escaped his captors and rejoined the march. As he marched, he searched for the company. Kadel was on the march for three days and saw men tortured by the Japanese. He said, “During those three days on the march, I saw men behead, their arms cut off, and some buried alive along the road.” At some point, he was confined to a shack with malaria.
At one point suffering from dysentery, malaria, and beriberi, he decided he could not go on. “I just thought the hell with it and dropped down to the side of the road. I don’t know why I wasn’t shot like some others were -and I didn’t care at the time.” He was found by Filipino civilians who fed him and nursed him back to health. The Filipinos hid him from the Japanese for several months.
During May 1942, his wife received this letter from the War Department.
“Dear Mrs. K. Kadel:
“According to War Department records, you have been designated as the emergency addressee of Major Richard C. Kadel, O,239,912, 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)
The Adjutant General”
In July 1942, she 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, Major Richard C. Kadel 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.”
He joined the Central Luzon Guerrilla Forces. With this group, he was in charge of ordnance and also served as the executive officer. As a guerrilla, he was under the command of Col. Gyles Merrill in Zambales Province. With him as a guerrilla was Major George E. Crane and Major Winston Jones. In an attempt to capture the men, the Japanese put a $7500.00 bounty on each man.
Of the Japanese, he said, (The Japs are) “horrid people, and whatever you hear about them is not true enough. I wonder why God permitted them on this earth?”
Kadel said that they had a radio that the Filipinos had gotten from a Japanese truck. They also enjoyed watching fights between Japanese and American planes. Usually, the end result was the Japanese plane was shot from the sky. He and the other men cheered.
Food for the guerrillas was scarce. Kadel recalled that they ate snails and coconuts on a regular basis. Their meals also consisted of rice and fish heads. On one occasion the guerrillas caught a seventeen-foot-long python and sliced it into strips for food. They also ate food that the Filipinos stole from the Japanese and brought to the guerrillas.
On one occasion, while staying with two elderly Filipinas and their elderly brother, he had been warned the Japanese were on their way to capture him. He escaped into a rice field and hid there. The Japanese searched the home looking for anything American that they could use against the Filipinos. In a closet, the Japanese captain found an American flag and told them they would be punished. One of the women pointed out that on the flag it said that it was made in Japan. The officer left attempting to save face.
When American forces landed at Subic Bay in late 1944, Capt. Richard Kadel and two other American officers were waiting for them on the beaches. Kadel stated that he and the other men could have left before the Americans landed in the Philippines, but they chose to stay. After making contact with American forces, Kadel learned he held the rank of Major. Soon afterward, he was promoted to Lt. Colonel.
In a letter that was sent out on a submarine, he wrote, “At present, I am in fine shape. I am free and busy now that the time is near. These Filipinos are very very poor, but their hearts are pure gold and they are very pro-American, thank God. I can tell you many stories about life in the swamps, the jungles, and the mountains, and many of the strange things I have seen, and believe me that time is rapidly approaching when I can see my loved ones again.” The letter was dated November 6, 1944.
Life as a free man was not as easy to adapt to as would be thought. Kadel had grown accustomed to sleeping on bamboo and found it hard to sleep in a bed. He frequently found himself getting out of bed and sleeping on the floor. Wearing shoes was another thing that he had to get used to since he had gone barefooted for a couple of years.
Upon being returned to the United States, Kadel was sent to Letterman General Hospital in San Francisco. After his release, he went to Louisville, Kentucky, where he was reunited with his wife. He was admitted to Nichols General Hospital. After a few days, the couple returned to Cave City. A banquet was thrown in his honor there.
After the war, he swore an affidavit against Major General Yoshitaka Kawane and Colonel Kurataro Hirano. Both men were charged with contributing to the deaths of 1,200 Americans and 10,000 Filipinos during the death march and an additional 1,548 Americans and 25,000 Filipinos at Camp O’Donnell. Kadel was discharged on November 24, 1946.
Richard C. Kadel died on October 27, 1983, in Swain County, North Carolina, and was buried at Cave City Cemetery in Cave City, Kentucky.