Merriman, Pvt. John R.

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Pvt. John Robert Merriman
Born: 26 February 1917 – Greene County, Ohio
Parents: John and Loretta Merriman
– Stepfather: George E. Siniard
Siblings: 1 sister, 1 brother
Home: 3108 Lake Street, Xenia, Ohio
Education:
-Stivers High School – Class of 1935
Occupation: Butcher – Sucher Packing Company
Enlisted:
– U.S. Army
– 10 January 1941 – Fort Thomas, Newport, Kentucky
Training:
– Fort Knox, Kentucky
Units:
– 19th Ordnance Battalion
– first six weeks was the primary training
– Week 1: infantry drilling
– Week 2: manual arms and marching to music
– Week 3: machine gun
– Week 4: pistol
– Week 5: M1 rifle
– Week 6: field week – training with gas masks, gas attacks, pitching tents, and hikes
– Weeks 7, 8, 9: Time was spent learning the weapons, firing each one, learning the parts of the weapons and their functions, field stripping and caring for  
   weapons, and the cleaning of weapons
– Classroom: courses lasted 3 months
– Weapons: soldiers assigned to ordnance issued a pistol, and possibly a machine gun or submachine gun
– Vehicle Training: soldiers attended different schools
– tank maintenance, truck maintenance, scout car maintenance, motorcycle maintenance, and carpentry
– the company’s machine shop, welding shop, and kitchen were all on trucks
Arkansas Maneuvers:
– August 1941 
– 17th Ordnance Company called back to Ft. Knox
Overseas Duty:
– A Company inactivated
– 17 August 1941 – activated as 17th Ordnance Company
– 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
Deployment:
– traveled by train to Ft. Mason, San Francisco, California
– tanks assigned to the 194th Tank Battalion were on the train
– Arrived: Thursday, 5 September 1941
– spent three days removing the turrets and painting the tanks’ serial numbers on the turrets
– put cosmoline on the guns to prevent rust
– given physicals and inoculations
– men with medical conditions replaced
– removed turrets from tanks of the 194th Tank Battalion
S.S. President Calvin Coolidge
– Boarded: San Francisco, California – Monday – 8 September 1941
– Sailed: 9:00 P.M.
– Arrived: Honolulu, Hawaii – Saturday – 13 September 1941 – 7:00 A.M.
– soldiers were given shore leave for the day
– Sailed: 5:00 P.M.
– escorted by the heavy cruiser, U.S.S. Astoria, an unknown destroyer, and the U.S.S. Guadalupe a fleet replenishment oiler
– smoke was seen on the horizon several times
– cruiser intercepted ships
– 16 September 1941 – crossed International Dateline
– the date became Thursday – 18 September 1941
– Arrived: Manila, Philippine Islands – Friday – 26 September 1941
– Disembarked:
– 17th Ordnance remained behind to unload tanks of the 194th Tank Battalion
– reattached turrets to tanks
– worked in shifts
– slept on the ship that night
– finished attaching turrets at 9:00 A.M. the next day
– rode buses to Ft. Stotsenburg
Stationed:
– Ft. Stotsenburg
– lived in tents in a low lying area
– tents flooded the first night in a heavy rain
– barracks completed – 15 November 1941
Work Day:
– the company followed the 194th Tank Battalion’s workday
– 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. – work
– 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
– during this time, they learned about the M3A1 tanks
– read manuals on tanks
– studied the 30-caliber and 50 caliber machineguns, and its 37-millimeter main gun
– 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
– tank crews could not fire guns since they were not given ammunition
– the base commander was waiting for General MacArthur to release the ammunition
– 5:10 – dinner
– after dinner, the soldiers were free to do what they wanted to do
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
Engagements:
– Battle of Luzon – 8 December 1942 – 6 January 1942
– 8 December 1942
– that morning the soldiers were laying rocks for sidewalks by their barracks
– informed by their commanding officer, Major. Richard Kadel, about Pearl Harbor
– the company went to a bamboo thicket where they could disperse vehicles
– the company set up a bivouac
– set up machine shop trucks, half-tracks, and trucks
– received orders to return to Ft. Stotsenburg
– the alert had been canceled
– lunch had just been served so they remained at the thicket
– 12:45 P.M. – Japanese attacked
– sauerkraut and hot dogs flew everywhere
– took cover under their trucks
– the Zeros banked and turned around over the thicket after strafing
– ordered not to fire at them
– one reason was the trucks had the only machines in the Philippines that could make parts for the tanks
– Japanese wiped out Army Air Corps
– dead and wounded were everywhere at the airfield
– after the attack on Clark Field, 17th Ordnance ordered to leave by General James R. N. Weaver to Pulilan
– the company moved as the tanks moved
– the company set up fuel dumps for tanks as they withdrew toward Bataan
– it also converted WWI anti-personnel shells for use by tanks
– the company was never on the front lines but lived with the bombings
– individuals did do tank repairs on the frontlines
– repaired disabled tanks
– converted shells into anti-personnel shells 
– 17th Ordnance was always in the same area where the tanks were fighting
– Battle of Bataan – 7 January 1942 – 9 April 1942
– 17th Ordnance worked to keep the tanks of the 192nd and 194th Tank Battalions running
– the company headquartered in an ordnance depot building which was empty
– ammunition dumps surrounded the depot
– repaired tanks damaged by Japanese or tank crews
– manufactured replacement parts for tanks
– 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 the 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
– near Mt. Samat 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.
– 6:30 P.M. – order went out. “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
– 11:10 P.M. – the company was given a half-hour to evacuate the depot before the ammunition dumps were destroyed 
– 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 carrying Colonel Everett C. Williams, Col. James V. Collier, and Major Marshall Hurt to meet
   with the Japanese commander about terms of surrender.
 – The white flag was bedding from A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion
– 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
– as King left to negotiate the surrender, he went through that was held by the tank group and spoke to them
– he told them he was going to get them the best deal he could get
– he also said, “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 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
– 6:45 A.M. – the order “CRASH” was sent for equipment to be destroyed
Prisoner of War
– 9 April 1942
– Death March
– started the march at Mariveles on the southern tip of Bataan
– POWs ran past Japanese artillery firing on Corregidor
– American Artillery returned fire
– knocked out three Japanese guns
– San Fernando – POWs put into small wooden boxcars
– each car could hold eight horses or forty men
– Japanese packed 100 POWs into each boxcar
– POWs who died remained standing since they could not fall to the floors
– Capas – POWs leave boxcars – dead fall-out of cars
– walked last ten miles to Camp O’Donnell
POW Camps:
– Philippines:
– 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
– the Japanese always had a sufficient supply of water
Meals:
– Breakfast – ½ cup of soupy rice and occasionally they got some sort of coffee
– Lunch – ½ mess kit of steamed rice and a ½ cup of sweet potato soup
– Dinner – the same as lunch
– 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
– the second truck of medicine sent by the Red Cross was turned away
– the Japanese took what they wanted from the cookies and fruit brought by the Philippine Red Cross for the POWs and gave what was left to the POWs
– POWs in the camp hospital lay on the floor elbow to elbow
– the floor was covered in human waste
– there were only primitive supplies improvised by the POWs to clean the floor
– 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
– the floor was covered with human excrement 
– the POWs made improvised cleaners to clean it
– each morning dead were found everywhere in the camp and stacked up under the hospital
– in an attempt to stop the spread of disease, the dead were moved to one area
– 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 the dead were not buried for two or three days
– Barracks:
– inadequate number of barracks
– POWs slept under buildings and on the ground
– those who did sleep in a building slept as many as 80 POWs in buildings designed to house 40 men
– Work Details:
– if a POW could walk, he was sent out on a work detail
– the less sick from the hospital had to dig latrines
– given one canteen of water that was expected to last for three days
– on the details, they did road construction, loading, and unloading trucks, and carrying goods on their backs
– men returned to camp and died
Hospitalized:
Died:
– Friday- 15 May 1942
– cause of death- dysentery
Burial Detail:
– POWs on burial detail often had dysentery and/or malaria
– the next morning the dead were often sitting up in the graves
– wild dogs dug up the dead
Buried:
– Camp O’Donnell Cemetery
– in May, his family received a letter from the War Department

“Dear Mr. G. Siniard:

        “According to War Department records, you have been designated as the emergency addressee if Private John R. Merriman, 15,065,353, 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, his family received a second 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, Pvt. John R. Merriman 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.”

– 10 June 1944 – family learned that his death

“=I AM DEEPLY DISTRESSED TO INFORM YOU REPORT JUST RECEIVED STATES THAT YOUR SON PRIVATE JOHN R MERRIMAN WHO PREVIOUSLY HAD BEEN REPORTED MISSING IN ACTION DIED FIFTEEN MAY NINETEEN FORTY TWO AS A RESULT OF DYSENTERY PERIOD THE SECRETARY OF WAR ASKS THAT I EXPRESS HIS DEEP SYMPATHY IN YOUR LOSS AND HIS REGRET THAT THE UNAVOIDABLE CIRCUMSTANCES MADE NECESSARY THE UNUSUAL LAPSE OF TIME IN REPORTING YOUR SONS DEATH TO CONFIRMING LETTER FOLLOWS=

           “ULIO THE ADJUTANT”

A number of days later, his parents received the following letter.

“Dear Mr. and Mrs. George Siniard:

    “It is with deep regret that I am writing to confirm the recent telegram informing you of the death of your son, Private John R. Merriman, 31,010,557, infantry, who was previously reported missing in action.

    “Information has now been received from the Japanese government through the International Red Cross stating that your son died on 15 May 1942 in a prisoner of war in the Philippine Islands from dysentery.

    “I realize the burden of anxiety that has been yours and deeply regret the sorrow this report brings you. May the knowledge that he made the supreme sacrifice for his home and country be a source of sustained comfort.

    “I extend to you my deepest sympathy,

                                                              Sincerely, yours
                                                              (signed) J. A. Ulio
                                                              Major General
                                                              The Adjutant General”

– Memorial Service:
– United Brethren Church
– Sunday, 23 July 1944
Reburied:
– The United States Armed Forces Cemetery – Manila #2
– remains identified – June 1947
Funeral: United Brethren Church
Reburied:
– 12 February 1949 – Dayton Memorial Park Cemetery – Dayton, Ohio

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