Marrs, Pvt. LD

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Pvt. LD Marrs was born on March 28, 1917, in Taylor, Texas, to William Clarence and Bertha Ellen Cornell Marrs. His parents named him “LD”. He was known as “Red” to his family and friends. With his four brothers and sister, he grew up and worked on the family farm. He registered for the draft on October 16, 1940, and names his mother as his next of kin. On January 15, 1941, he was inducted into the at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

He was sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky for basic training. After basic training, he was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana where he was assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion. It was during this time that he volunteered to join the 192nd Tank Battalion which had been ordered overseas. LD replaced a National Guardsman who was either married or considered “too old” for overseas duty. LD was assigned to B Company and the tank of S/Sgt. Walter Mahr. With LD in the crew, was Sgt. Ray Mason and Pvt. Quincey Humphries.

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.

The battalion traveled west by train to San Francisco, California, and was taken by ferry to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island on the ferry U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe. At Ft. McDowell, they were given physicals and inoculated for overseas duty. Those men found to have a minor medical condition were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date, while other men were simply replaced.

The 192nd boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Gen. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27. During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP. The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2, and had a two-day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.

On Wednesday, November 5, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes. It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and, another transport, the U.S.A.T. President Calvin Coolidge. Sunday night, November 9, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11. During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Dateline.

On Saturday, November 15, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon. The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the smoke. It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country, while two other intercepted ships were Japanese freighters hauling scrap metal to Japan.

When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day. At one point, the ships passed an island at night and did so in total blackout. This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm’s way.

The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning. One thing that was different about their arrival was that instead of a band and a welcoming committee waiting at the pier to tell them to enjoy their stay in the Philippines and see as much of the island as they could, a party came aboard the ship – carrying guns – and told the soldiers, “Draw your firearms immediately; we’re under alert. We expect a war with Japan at any moment. Your destination is Fort Stotsenburg, Clark Field.” 

At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward King who apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field. He made sure that had what they needed and that they all received dinner – which was stew thrown into their mess kits – before he went to have his own dinner. Ironically, November 20 was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.

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

The area was near the end of a runway used by B-17s for takeoffs. The planes flew over the tents at about 100 feet blowing dirt everywhere and the noise from the engines as they flew over was unbelievable. At night, they heard the sounds of planes flying over the airfield which turned out to be Japanese reconnaissance planes. In addition, the khaki uniforms they had been issued also turned out to be a heavy material which made them uncomfortable to wear in the tropical heat. 

The day started at 5:15 with reveille and anyone who washed near a faucet with running water was considered lucky. At 6:00 A.M. they ate breakfast followed by work – on their on the tanks and other equipment – from 7:00 A.M. to 11:30 A.M. Lunch was from 11:30 A.M. to 1:30 P.M. when the soldiers returned to work until 2:30 P.M. The shorter afternoon work period was based on the belief that it was too hot to work in the climate. The term “recreation in the motor pool,” a term they borrowed from the 194th Tank Battalion, meant they actually worked until 4:30 in the afternoon.

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. Men were given the opportunity to be allowed to go to Manila in small groups. 

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 coveralls to do the work on the tanks. The 192nd followed the example of the 194th and wore coveralls in their barracks area to do work on their tanks, but if the soldiers left the battalion’s area, they wore dress uniforms everywhere; including going to the PX.

Ten days before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the reconnaissance pilots reported that Japanese transports were milling around in a large circle in the China Sea. On Monday, December 1, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers. The 194th guarded the north end of the airfield and the 192nd guarded the south end. At all times, two members of each tank and half-track remained with their vehicles. Meals were served to the tankers from food trucks.

The morning of December 8, 1941 LD and his battalion learned of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor just ten hours earlier. All morning, as they stood guard, American planes filled the sky. At 12:30 the planes landed and their pilots went to lunch. The planes were lined up in a straight line outside the mess hall. B-17s, which had been loaded with bombs, sat on the runways awaiting orders to take off to bomb Formosa.

At 12:45, the sky was again filled with planes, this time the planes were Japanese. Bombs began exploding on the runways. The wounded and dead were everywhere. LD did and the other tankers could do little more than watch since their weapons were of no use against planes. After the attack, he witnessed the devastation caused by the attack. The battalion remained at the airfield and the crews lived through several more air raids.

On December 21, the tanks of B Company were ordered north to the Lingayen Gulf area where the Japanese had begun landing troops. The first tank battle of World War II involving American tanks took place the next day.

The battalion was in the area of Urdaneta on December 23 and 24. The bridge they were going used to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of the river. As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening. They successfully crossed the river in the Bayambang Province.

On December 25, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27.

The tankers were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27, and at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29. On January 1st, conflicting orders were received by the defenders who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5. Doing this would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan. General Wainwright was unaware of the orders since they came from Gen. MacArthur’s chief of staff.

Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River. Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted. From January 2 to 4, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.

The tankers often found themselves performing the rile of rear guard to allow the infantry to disengage and withdraw. It was in this role on December 29, 1941, that LD’s tank had a track blown off it by the Japanese. The crew was trapped in the tank. The Japanese ordered them out of the tank. LD, Pvt. Quincey Humphries, Sgt. Ray Mason, and S/Sgt. Walter Mahr came out of their tank expecting to be taken as Prisoners of War. Instead, they were ordered to run by the Japanese.

The members as the tank crew ran toward their own lines. The Japanese opened fire on them with a machine gun. Sgt. Mason was killed instantly. Mahr, Humphries, and LD were wounded but made it to the sugarcane field and hid.

The next morning, American and Filipino troops retook the area. S/Sgt. Mahr was found in the field and taken to a field hospital. LD and Humphries were not found and listed as Missing in Action.

In May or early June 1943, his parents received a message from the War Department:

“Dear Mrs. B. Marrs:

        “According to War Department records, you have been designated as the emergency addressee if Private LD Marrs, 38,040,859, 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) 
                                                                                                                                                                       Major General
                                                                                                                                                                   The Adjutant General”
   

In July 1942, the 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, Private LD Marrs 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.”          

LD was not heard of again until other members of his battalion were sent to Bilibid Prison in Manila as Prisoners of War. When they arrived, LD was already a POW there.

During his time as a POW, LD was held at Bilibid Prison until sent out on a work detail. He worked on the Port Area Detail at Manila from June 13, 1942, until July 17, 1944. On this detail, the POWs loaded and unloaded ships for the Japanese. While he was working on this detail, in June 1943, his family learned he was a Prisoner of War.

“REPORT JUST RECEIVED THROUGH THE INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS STATES THAT YOUR SON PVT LD MARRS IS A PRISONER OF WAR OF THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT IN THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS LETTER OF INFORMATION FOLLOWS FROM THE PROVOST
ULIO THE ADJUTANT GENERAL.”

Within days of receiving the first message, his father received the following letter:

“Mrs. B. Marrs
Taylor, Texas

    “The Provost Marshal General directs me to inform you that you may communicate with your son, postage free, by following the inclosed instructions:

    “It is suggested that you address him as follows:

        “Pvt. LD Marrs U.S. Army
         Interned in the Philippine Islands
         C/O Japanese Red Cross, Tokyo, Japan
         Via New York, New York

    “Packages cannot be sent to the Orient at this time. When transportation facilities are available a package permit will be issued you.

    “Further information will be forwarded you as soon as it is received.

                                                                                                                                                                    “Sincerely

                                                                                                                                                                   Howard F. Bresee
                                                                                                                                                                   Colonel, CMP
                                                                                                                                                                   Chief Information Bureau”

On July 17, 1944, LD boarded the Nissyo Maru. This transport carried American POWs in its holds to Japan. The ship sailed on July 17 and arrived at Takao, Formosa on July 27. It sailed the next day for Moji, Japan arriving there on August 3rd.

In Japan, LD was held at Kamioka Camp also known as Nagoya #1-B. The camp was located in the mountains and received as much as 33 feet of snow during the winter. The POWs, from this camp, were used as minors in zinc and lead mines. His POW detachment was referred to as 2nd American Detachment since they were the second group of American POWs to arrive at the camp.

The POW barracks were flimsy and built of wood. During the winter, to prevent them from collapsing, the POWs had to shovel the snow off the roofs. The barracks were divided into small rooms meant to sleep 10 POWs; most were used by as many as 24 men who slept on straw mats for mattresses. In the middle of the barracks was a pit surrounded by wood for heat. Each day the POWs received a couple of handfuls of charcoal.

Food for the POWs was poor. Their daily meal consisted of rice and maize and one ounce of meat per POW. About once a month, the POWs received 5 ounces of soybean because they had worked hard. Fish, vegetables, and meat were kept stored in a building and allowed to go bad instead of being given to the POWs.,

As the end of the war grew closer, the beatings became more brutal, took place daily, and were more often collective. The POWs were hit over their heads and all over their bodies with belts, sabers, ropes, and clubs. One guard liked to burn the POWs around their navels creating the symbol of the rising sun. They were also made to assume painful positions and stand out in inclement weather nude. POWs were also tied to ladders, so they were slightly off the ground, and were beaten.

Medical treatment was almost none existent since a certain number of POWs were needed for work each day. The sick, who could walk, were forced to work. Those who refused were beaten and medical treatment was withheld from them. In addition, the Japanese set a limit on the number of POWs who co and only the extremely ill were allowed to stay in camp. The next day if a new man was too sick to work, one of the POWs who were too ill the day before had to go to work. At the same time, this was happening, the Japanese refused to give the POWs the medicine and medical supplies sent by the Red Cross.

The Japanese treatment of the POWs was brutal. If one POW broke a rule, all the POWs would be beaten, clubbed, or burned. When the Japanese heard the news of an air raid by the Americans, they selected eight or ten POWs and punished them. Afterward, they threw them into the guardhouse where the men were forgotten. The POWs also learned that when the Japanese called them out in the middle of the night for an inspection, it meant that the Japanese had suffered another defeat and that the Americans were getting closer.

The POWs slept 24 men to a room, that was meant for 10 men, in the barracks, and their beds were straw mats. The blankets they received were not much protection against the cold. The barracks were heated by coal-burning stoves, but only two handfuls of coal were issued each day. To prevent the buildings from collapsing in the winter, the POWs had to clear the roofs of snow each time it snowed.

Since a certain number of POWs were needed for work each day, the sick, who could walk, were forced to work. Those who refused were beaten. In addition, the Japanese set a limit on the number of POWs who could be in the hospital at any time. When a “new” sick POW was too sick to work, and “old” sick POW had to go to work. At the same time, the Japanese refused to give the POWs the medicine and medical supplies sent by the Red Cross.

The sick POWs were put on “light duty.” To the Japanese “light duty” was going up a mountain and hauling green muck. As it turned out, this muck was contaminated and even the Japanese guards kept away from it. The prisoners noticed that nothing would grow where the muck was dumped. The prisoners worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and every two weeks they would get one day off.

This detail was not bad during the summer because the old supervisor would allow two of the six prisoners to look for edible plants. During the winter, the prisoners had to climb the mountain through snow that was four to five feet deep. Since the Japanese did not issue the shoes that were sent by the Red Cross, to protect their feet from frostbite, the POW’s made socks from blackout curtains to put inside their canvas shoes. The prisoners also were never warm. They slept in pairs to share body heat and blankets.

As the end of the war grew closer, the beatings became more brutal, took place daily, and were more often collective. The POWs were hit over their heads and all over their bodies with belts, sabers, ropes, and clubs. One guard liked to burn the POWs around their navels creating the symbol of the rising sun. They were also made to assume painful positions and stand out in inclement weather nude. POWs were also tied to ladders, so they were slightly off the ground, and were beaten.

The camp was close enough to Nagasaki the POWs felt the ground shake from the atomic bomb. On August 15, 1945, the POWs learned of the Japanese surrender from a newspaper purchased on the Black Market. The prisoners wanted to celebrate, but the officers feared that if they did the Japanese would retaliate. Several days later the prisoners took control of the camp and waited for American forces.

LD was liberated on September 7, 1945, taken to Yokohama, and returned to the Philippines for medical treatment. His family received this message.

“Mr. and Mrs. William Marrs: The secretary of war has asked me to inform you that your son, Pvt. LD Marrs. was returned to military control Sept. 7 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”

On the U.S.S. Yarmouth, he returned to the United States on October 8, 1945, in San Francisco. When he returned home, he married Willa Rae Ware. The couple had a son and a daughter. LD remained in the military for another 26 years as a member of the U.S. Air Force. He retired on June 30, 1965. After he retired, he moved to Sherman, Texas.

On July 15, 1993, LD Marrs passed away in Sherman, Texas. He was buried in Section P Lot 217 in the Veterans Field of Honor at Cedar Lawn Memorial Park in Sherman, Texas.

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