Sgt. John Joseph Morine was the son of Frank & Rosa Morine. He was born on November 22, 1916, and grew up in Gypsum, Ohio, where his father worked for U. S. Gypsum. With his brother and sister, he grew up in company housing. His family and friends called him “Chocolate” because of his dark complexion.
After high school, John was employed by U. S. Gypsum. It was while he was in high school, that he joined the Ohio National Guard in 1932. His father had to sign the papers since John was only sixteen. In the fall of 1940, John was called to federal service when H Company of the Ohio National Guard was designated C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. During his training at Ft. Knox, he rose in rank to sergeant and was made a tank commander. It is known one member of his tank crew was John Minier.
In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd was sent to Louisiana to take part in the Louisiana maneuvers of 1941. After the maneuvers, the members of the battalion learned they were to stay at Camp Polk instead of returning to Ft. Knox. None of the men had any idea why they were being kept at the fort.
On the side of a hill, the tankers learned that they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM. Within hours, many of the tankers had figured out that PLUM stood for Philippines, Luzon, Manila. John received a furlough home to say his goodbyes.
Over different train routes, the battalion’s companies traveled to San Francisco. They were taken by ferry to Fort McDowell on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. There, they were given physicals by the battalion’s medical detachment and inoculated for duty in the Philippine Islands. Those men who were found to need minor medical treatment remained behind at the fort and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
The 192nd Tank Battalion received orders for duty, in the Philippines, because of an event that happened during the summer of 1941. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots, who was flying at a lower altitude, noticed something odd in the water. He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water. In the distance, he saw another and came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line, in the direction of a Japanese occupied island hundreds of miles to the northwest. The island had a large radio transmitter on it.
When the squadron landed, that evening, he reported what he had seen, but it was too late to do anything that evening. The next day, when another squadron was sent to the area, the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat which was making its way to shore. Since communication was poor between the Air Corps and Navy, no ship was sent to intercept the boat. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
From Camp Polk, the battalion traveled west over four different train routes to San Francisco, California, where the soldiers were ferried, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island, the soldiers were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases by the battalion’s medical detachment. Those men with minor health issues were held on the island and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date. Some men were simply replaced.
The 192nd was 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. They 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, the transport, S.S. President Calvin Coolidge. Sunday night, November 9th, 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.
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. At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward King, who apologized that they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field. He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner – which was stew thrown into their mess kits – before he went to have his own. Ironically, November 20 was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
For the next seventeen days, the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons. The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea. They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance.
The tanks were ordered to the perimeter of the Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers on December 1st to guard against paratroopers. Two members of each tank remained with their tank at all times. The morning of December 8, 1941, John heard the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He and the other tankers returned to the perimeter of the airfield. As the tankers sat in their tanks, they watched American planes flying over their heads. Around noon, the planes landed and were parked in a straight line outside the mess hall. The pilots went to lunch.
At 12:45 in the afternoon, Japanese planes approached the airfield from the north. At first, the tankers believed the planes were American. It was only when bombs began exploding around them did they know that the planes were Japanese.
The tank battalion received orders on December 21 that it was to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf. Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas. When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
On December 23 and 24, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta. 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 at 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 fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27 and were at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29. While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was destroyed, they were able to find a crossing over the river.
At Cebu, seven tanks of the company fought a three hour battle with the Japanese. The main Japanese line was south of Saint Rosa Bridge ten miles to the south of the battle. The tanks were hidden in brush as Japanese troops passed them for three hours without knowing that they were there. While the troops passed, Lt. William Gentry was on his radio describing what he was seeing. It was only when a Japanese soldier tried to take a short cut through the brush, that his tank was hidden in, that the tanks were discovered. The tanks turned on their sirens and opened up on the Japanese. They then fell back to Cabanatuan.
C Company was re-supplied and withdrew to Baluiag where the tanks encountered Japanese troops and ten tanks. It was at Baluiag that Gentry’s tanks won the first tank victory of World War II against enemy tanks. After this battle, C Company made its way south. When it entered Cabanatuan, it found the barrio filled with Japanese guns and other equipment. The tank company destroyed as much of the equipment as it could before proceeding south.
On December 31, 1941, Company was sent out reconnaissance patrols north of the town of Baluiag. The patrols ran into Japanese patrols, which told the Americans that the Japanese were on their way. Knowing that the railroad bridge was the only way into the town and to cross the river, Lt. Gentry set up his defenses in view of the bridge and the rice patty it crossed.
Early on the morning of the 31st, the Japanese began moving troops and across the bridge. The engineers came next and put down planking for tanks. A little before noon Japanese tanks began crossing the bridge.
Later that day, the Japanese had assembled a large number of troops in the rice field on the northern edge of the town. One platoon of tanks under the command of 2nd Lt. Marshall Kennady was to the southeast of the bridge. Gentry’s tanks were to the south of the bridge in huts, while third platoon commanded by Capt Harold Collins was to the south on the road leading out of Baluiag. 2nd Lt. Everett Preston had been sent south to find a bridge to cross to attack the Japanese from behind.
Major Morley came riding in his jeep into Baluiag. He stopped in front of a hut and was spotted by the Japanese who had lookouts in the town’s church’s steeple. The guard became very excited so Morley, not wanting to give away the tanks positions, got into his jeep and drove off. Bill had told him that his tanks would hold their fire until he was safely out of the village.
When Gentry felt the Morley was out of danger, he ordered his tanks to open up on the Japanese tanks at the end of the bridge. The tanks then came smashing through the huts’ walls and drove the Japanese in the direction of Lt. Marshall Kennady’s tanks. Kennady had been radioed and was waiting.
Kennady’s platoon held its fire until the Japanese were in view of his platoon and then joined in the hunt. The Americans chased the tanks up and down the streets of the village, through buildings and under them. By the time Bill’s unit was ordered to disengage from the enemy, they had knocked out at least eight enemy tanks.
During the withdrawal into the peninsula, the company crossed over the last bridge which was mined and about to be blown. The 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leapfrog past it and then cover the 192nd’s withdraw. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
Over the next several months, the battalion fought battle after battle with tanks that were not designed for jungle warfare. The tank battalions, on January 28, were given the job of protecting the beaches. The 192nd was assigned the coastline from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan’s east coast. The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
In early February, the Japanese attempted to land troops behind the main battle line on Bataan on a small peninsula. The troops were quickly cut off and when they attempted to land reinforcements, they were landed in the wrong place. The fight to wipe out these two pockets became known as the Battle of the Points.
The Japanese had been stopped, but the decision was made by Brigadier General Clinton A. Pierce that tanks were needed to support the 45th Infantry Philippine Scouts. He requested the tanks from the Provisional Tank Group.
On February 2, a platoon of C Company tanks was ordered to Quinan Point where the Japanese had landed troops. The tanks arrived about 5:15 P.M. He did a quick reconnaissance of the area, and after meeting with the commanding infantry officer, made the decision to drive tanks into the edge of the Japanese position and spray the area with machine-gun fire. The progress was slow but steady until a Japanese .37 milometer gun was spotted in front of the lead tank, and the tanks withdrew. It turned out that the gun had been disabled by mortar fire, but the tanks did not know this at the time. The decision was made to resume the attack the next morning, so 45th Infantry dug in for the night.
The next day, the tank platoon did reconnaissance before pulling into the front line. They repeated the maneuver and sprayed the area with machine gunfire. As they moved forward, members of the 45th Infantry followed the tanks. The troops made progress all day long along the left side of the line. The major problem the tanks had to deal with was tree stumps which they had to avoid so they would not get hung up on them. The stumps also made it hard for the tanks to maneuver. Coordinating the attack with the infantry was difficult, so the decision was made to bring in a radio car so that the tanks and infantry could talk with each other.
On February 4, at 8:30 A.M. five tanks and the radio car arrived. The tanks were assigned the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, so each tank commander knew which tank was receiving an order. Each tank also received a walkie-talkie, as well as the radio car and infantry commanders. This was done so that the crews could coordinate the attack with the infantry and send so that the tanks could be ordered to where they were needed. The Japanese were pushed back almost to the cliffs when the attack was halted for the night.
The attack resumed the next morning and the Japanese were pushed to the cliff line where they hid below the edge of the cliff out of view. It was at that time that the tanks were released to return to the 192nd.
C Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line. The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket. Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket.
To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used. The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank. As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole. Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.
The other method used to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole. The driver gave the other track power resulting in the tank going around in a circle and grinding its way down into the foxhole. The second method was simple. The tank was parked with one track across the foxhole. The driver gave power to one track which caused the tank to go in a circle. The tank dug into the dirt until the Japanese soldiers were dead. The tankers slept upwind of their tanks so they wouldn’t smell the rotting flesh.
April 3, the Japanese launched an all-out attack on Bataan, and the tanks were repeatedly used to plug holes in the defensive lines. On April 7, 1942, the Japanese broke through the east side of the main defensive line on Bataan. C Company was pulled out of its position along the west side of the line. They were ordered to reinforce the eastern portion of the line. Traveling south to Mariveles, the tankers started up the eastern road but were unable to reach their assigned area due to the roads being blocked by retreating Filipino and American forces.
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. At 10:30 that night, he sent his staff officers to negotiate surrender terms.
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.”
About 6:45 in the morning of April 9, 1942, the tankers received the order, “crash.” They destroyed their tanks and waited for the Japanese to make contact with them. When they did, the Americans officially became Prisoners of War. John volunteered to surrender the company to the Japanese. He was escorted to the Japanese command center, by four guards, where he officially surrendered his company. He and the rest of the company were now Prisoners of War.
John took part in the death march from Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan to San Fernando. There, he and the other POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars. The POWs were packed in so tightly that those who died remained standing. At Capas, he disembarked the car and walked the last few miles to Camp O’Donnell.
As a POW, John was held at Camp O’Donnell and Cabanatuan. From medical records kept at the camp, John was reported in the camp hospital on June 23rd, but no illness was given, on the report, nor was a date of discharge given. It is known that John went out on a work detail to Clark Field to build runways and revetments. John appears to have been a replacement for another POW who was sent to Bilibid Prison due to illness.
The POWs worked long hours starting at 6:00 A.M. working long hours even during the typhoon season without a day off. They were fed, a cup of rice, twice a day but the amount of food was inadequate. The Japanese did not give the POWs any medical supplies, and if they had them it was because the POWs had scrounged them. They were housed in the same barracks that many of them had lived in before the war.
If a POW escaped, the POWs remaining POWs were forced to stand at attention, information, for hours. On one occasion, they stood at attention until 4:00 A.M. Afterwards, they went to work. The Japanese instituted the “Blood Brother” rule since several POWs escaped from the detail. If one man escaped, the other nine men in the group would be executed. Men were often thrown into the metal shack that served as a cellblock that had no windows and had only enough room for the man to squat. They also witnessed the execution of Filipinos who had been caught stealing sheet metal. They were tied to poles and used for bayonet practice.
As completion of the runway neared, rock for the base ran out. The Japanese engineers decided that sand would be used for the base so that the runway could be completed. The first time a Japanese bomber landed on the runway, it flipped over onto its back when its wheels broke through the concrete. The POWs wanted to cheer but didn’t so that they wouldn’t be beaten.
When the detail ended, the POWs were sent to Bilibid Prison to await transport to Japan. In late September 1944, John and other POWs were taken to the Port Area of Manila and boarded onto the Hokusen Maru on October 1st. His POW detachment was scheduled to sail on the Arisan Maru, but the POW detachment assigned to the Hokusen Maru had not completely arrived and the ship was ready to sail. The Japanese flipped-flopped the POW detachments and put John’s detachment was put on the Hokusen Maru.
On October 3rd, the Hokusen Maru sailed for Hong Kong. It arrived there on October 11th. The ship sailed again, on October 21st, for Formosa arriving there on October 24th. As it turned out, the ship John had been scheduled to sail on, the Arisan Maru, was sunk by an American submarine on the same date. Only nine of the 1803 POWs on the ship survived its sinking.
Upon arrival at Formosa on November 9th, John was taken to Heito Camp. When the Americans arrived in the camp, they were met by the camp commandant, 1st Lieutenant Tamaki. The POWs were lined up and Lt. Tamaki walked down the line. As he passed each man, he searched each one and went through their possessions. He took any medicine or medical instruments he found.
Not too long after arriving in the camp, ten American POWs died from what the camp’s British doctor called “brain fever.” Since he had no medicine to treat the sick, they died. Lt. Tamaki called all the POWs in the camp together. He asked the POWs if they had a fever. Fifty or sixty POWs raised their hands. Tamaki then told the POWs that Heito Camp had a large cemetery and that he was going to put as many of them in it as he could.
On their fifth day in the camp, the Americans were put to work. The POWs were placed in workgroups of five men. Each “team” of POWs was expected to load three boxcars with ballast. Each boxcar held ten tons of ballast. The ballast was collected from fields that the Japanese planned used to grow rice. POWs who were too weak to do this work were put to work on the camp farm.
If the Japanese decided that a POW was not working hard enough they punished him. When the POWs returned to the camp at the end of the day, he would be grabbed by three or four guards. The POW was dragged to a water trough and thrown into the trough and held underwater. When the Japanese finished with the trough, they took the POW into the guardhouse. From inside the guardhouse, the POWs could hear the man scream from the beating he received from Lt. Tamaki. After three or four days of repeated beatings, the POW was released. The other POWs were shown the welts on the man’s shoulders, backs, and legs.
John became ill while at Heito Camp, and according to the final report on the 192nd Tank Battalion written during November 1945, was reported to have died of dysentery on Monday, January 15, 1945. According to Sgt. John Massimino of B Company, who was friends with John, John died from “brain fever.” A report at the camp shows John cause of death as being malaria.
Massimino was on John Morine’s burial detail and buried John at Tomon Cemetery in Takao, Formosa. The remains of the POWs were later disinterred by American Grave Registration and moved to another location. John’s remains were sent to the American Graves Registration Mausoleum in Shanghai, China, and later the remains were sent to Hawaii.
On March 10, 1949, John’s family requested that his remains be returned home. The remains of Sgt. John J. Morine were returned to Gypsum, Ohio, on March 10, 1949. Albert Allen, of C Company, gave the eulogy at his funeral, while the sermon was given by Father John E. Duffy. Fr. Duffy was a liberated Japanese POW. His pallbearers were John Minier, Joseph Hrupcho, Kenneth Thompson, Virgil Janes, John Short, and Harold Beggs of C Company. After a funeral mass, John was buried for the final time on March 12, 1949, at St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery, Sandusky, Ohio, in Section: C, Block: 95, Lot: 137, which is his family’s lot.
It should be mentioned that there is another version of John’s death. While John was on Formosa, he became friends with S/Sgt. Charles H. Norgilar who was known as “Cork.” In 1995, ten years after Cork had died, his sister, Frances Shimko mailed a package to Gypsum from Oceanside, California. It was simply addressed, “To: The family and friends of John J. Morine, son of Rosa Morine, Gypsum, Ohio.” A postal clerk at the post office identified Gerri Gill as a cousin of John Morine.
Geri received a phone call from the post office about the package. As she drove to get the package, she wondered what was in it. When she opened the package, she found her cousin’s dog tags wrapped in plastic. The note in the package explained that Charles “Cork” Norgilar had taken the tags off the body of his friend, John Morine, to return them to his family. In this version of John’s death, he had been executed by the Japanese, but Cork never explained to anyone what had happened and no POWs at the camp were reported to have been executed.
In her letter to the Morine family, Frances Shimko explained why her brother had not returned the dog tags years earlier. After the war, Cork had visited another family with the dog tags of their son. The mother of the dead soldier was angered that he had survived the war while her son had died. This act of rejection prevented Cork from trying to find John’s family. Several years later, when he set out for Gypsum, Ohio, he turned around halfway there, because he could not bear to be rejected again.