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Muther, Cpl. Frank I.

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MutherF

Cpl. Frank I. Muther

Born: 22 January 1920 – Oakland, California 
Parents: Josef Muther & Frieda Wifli-Muther 
Siblings: 1 sister, 1 step-brother 
– the family had a diary farm near Puyallup, Washington
– bought diary farm near Salinas, California 
Home: Monterey Road – Alisal, California 
Education: 
– Blanco School
– Salinas High School
– Hartnell College 
Enlisted: California National Guard
Inducted: 
– U. S. Army 
– 10 February 1941 – Salinas Army Air Base 
– C Company, 194th Tank Battalion
Training:
– Fort Lewis, Washington
– Fort Knox, Kentucky
– Radio Operator
– Tank Crew:
Lt. Ray Bradford
Pfc. Gene Stahl
– the fourth member of the tank crew was referred to as “L”
Note: The decision for this move – which had been made on August 15, 1941, at Ft. Knox, Kentucky – 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.
Overseas Duty:
– 4 September 1941 –
– the battalion traveled by train to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California
– Arrived: 7:30 A.M. – 5 September 1941
– ferried to Ft. McDowell, Angel Island, on U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe
– given physicals and inoculations
– men with medical conditions replaced
– Ship: S.S. President Calvin Coolidge
– Boarded: Monday – 8 September 1941 – 3:00 P.M.
– Sailed: 9:00 P.M. – same day
– Arrived: Honolulu, Hawaii – Saturday – 13 September 1941 – 7:00 A.M.
– Sailed: 5:00 P.M. – same day
– escorted by the heavy cruiser, U.S.S. Astoria, and an unknown destroyer
– smoke was seen on the horizon several times
– cruiser intercepted ships
– ships from friendly countries
– Arrived: Manila – Friday – 26 September 1941
– disembarked ship – 3:00 P.M.
– taken by bus to Fort Stotsenburg
– maintenance section with 17th ordnance remained behind to unload the tanks and attached
   turrets
-27 September 1941 – job completed at 9:00 A.M.
Stationed:
– Ft. Stotsenburg, Philippine Islands
– lived in tents until barracks completed – 15 November 1941
– 1 December 1941
– tanks ordered to perimeter of Clark Field
– 194th guarded north end of airfield with 192nd guarding south portion
– two crew members of each tank and half-track remained with vehicle at all times
– meals served by food trucks
– those not assigned to a tank or half-track remained at command post
Engagements:
– Battle of Luzon – 8 December 1941 – 6 January 1942
– lived Japanese attack on Clark Field
-at Quartermasters Office
– getting a new canteen cup
– He looked up at planes and said, “Hey! Look at all those beautiful planes!”
– as he was counting the planes bombs began exploding around him
– dove into a ditch hitting his head on a metal culvert
Jack Frost jumped into ditch on top of him
– Frost’s revolver rammed into Muther’s back
Of this, Frank said to Frost, “You know you would have been the one to get hit with shrapnel before me.”
– planes did not go after tanks
– made his way to his tank
– slammed hatch on four fingers on his left hand in grove that sealed the hatch
– Bradford said to him, “Why didn’t you close the door?”
– reached out and pulled the hatch shut from inside tank
– watched through the glass slot a sergeant in a half-track fire at a Zero
– his gun jammed and the Zero came in
– fired bow gun in rounds of five at Zero
– had front of Zero sighted
– Bradford said to him, “Don’t shoot! You’ll give our position away! Here we are in a full-scale air raid, and he was afraid of giving our position away.”
– first wave took out two anti-aircraft radar units
– that night the tankers spent the night loading machine gun belts with a tracer every fourth shell
– used bullets from WWI rifle clips
– Japanese attacked the next morning
– hit buildings they missed the day before
– of the attack, he said,“The bombs landed so close the tank seemed to lift off the ground.”
– after attack 194th sent to a bivouac three kilometers north of Clark Field
– from there they were sent to Barrio of San Joaquin on the Malolos Road
– 12 December 1941
– moved to new bivouac south to San Fernando near Calumpit Bridge
– arrived 6:00 A.M.
– 15 December 1941
– Bradford spotted a blinking light in the second floor of a house and said, “Gene and Frank, secure that light!”
– the two men made left the tank about 50 yards from the house
– Muther carried his .45 and a machine gun
– Stahl said to him, “You take the front and I’ll go around the back.”
– Frank said, “Okay, but be careful.”
– broke down front door, heard something behind him whirled around and saw Stahl
– the two men made their way upstairs and heard someone run across the room
– they found the light, but the fifth columnist was gone
– apparently he had jumped out the window
– rest of company had continued to move south
– sped to catch up with company
– C Company took position at Tagaytay Ridge
– gasoline truck blew up that night lighting the sky
– a spark from its batteries ignited some gas cans on top of them
– 24 December 1941
– company moved over Taal Road to Santo Tomas
– bivouacked near San Paolo
– 26/27 December 1941
– defended in Southern Luzon near Lucban
– supported Philippine Army
– 29/30 December 1941
– new line at Bamban River established
– tank battalions held line until ordered to withdraw
– 30 December 1941
– covered withdraw of Philippine Divisions
– it was around this time that the company rejoined the battalion
– 30/31 December 1941
– tank battalions held Calumpit Bridge
– covering withdraw of Philippine Divisions south on Rt. 3, San Fernando
– 2 January 1942
– both tank battalions ordered to withdrawal to Lyac Junction
– 194th withdrew there on Highway 7
– 5 January 1942
– C Company and A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion, withdrew from Guagua-Porac Line
   and moved into position between Sexmoan and Lubao
– 1:50 A.M. – Japanese attempted to infiltrate
– bright moonlight made them easy to see
– tanks opened fire
– Japanese lay down smoke which blew back into them
– 3:00 A.M. – Japanese broke off engagement
– suffered 50% casualties
– Remedios – established new line along dried creek bed
– 6/7 January 1942
– 194th, covered by 192nd, crosses Culis Creek into Bataan
– both battalions bivouacked south of Aubucay-Hacienda Road
– rations cut in half
– Battle of Bataan
– 7 January 1942 – 9 April 1942
– January 1942
– tank companies reduced to three tanks per platoon
– 8 January 1942
– composite tank company made up of tanks from the 192nd and 194th sent to protect
   East Coast Road north of Hermosa
– their job was to keep the East Road open north of Hermosa and prevent the
   Japanese from driving into Bataan before the main battle line had been formed
– the remainder of tanks ordered to bivouac for night south of Aubucay-Hacienda Road
– tankers had been fighting for a month without a rest
– tanks also needed overdue maintenance
– 17th Ordnance
– all tank companies reduced to ten tanks
– three per tank platoon
– sent to reopen Moron Road so General Segunda’s forces could withdraw
– tanks knock out an anti-tank gun
– two tanks disabled by landmines but recovered
– mission abandoned
– Gen. Segunda’s troops escaped using the beach but lost their heavy equipment
Note: It was at this time the tank battalions received these orders which came from Gen. Weaver: “Tanks will execute maximum delay, staying in position and firing at visible enemy until further delay will jeopardize withdrawal. If a tank is immobilized, it will be fought until the close approach of the enemy, then destroyed; the crew previously taking positions outside and continuing to fight with the salvaged and personal weapons. Considerations of personal safety and expediency will not interfere with accomplishing the greatest possible delay.”
– 12 January 1942
– C Company, with D Company, 192nd, sent to Cadre Road
– a forward position with little alert time
– 13 January 1942
– mines planted by ordnance prevented them from reaching Cadre Road
– returned to battalion
– 16 January 1942
– C Company sent to Bagac to reopen Moron Highway
– the highway had been cut by Japanese
– Moron Highway, and Junction of Trail 162
– tank platoon fired on by antitank gun
– tanks knock out the gun
– cleared roadblock with support of infantry
– 20 January 1942
– Bani Bani Road -tanks sent in to save 31st Infantry command post
– 24 January 1942
– tanks order to Hacienda Road in support of troops
– landmines planted by ordnance prevented them from reaching the road
– 26 January 1942
– the battalion held a position a kilometer north of the Pilar-Bagac Road
– four self-propelled mounts with the battalion
– 9:45 A.M. – warned by Filipino a large Japanese force was coming
– when the enemy appeared they opened up with all the battalion had
– 10:30 A.M. – Japanese withdrew after losing 500 of 1200 men
– prevented new defensive line being formed from being breached
– 28 January 1942
– 194th tanks given beach duty protecting southern beaches
– guarded coast from Limay to Cabcaben
– half-tracks patrolled roads
– maintained radio contact with on-shore and off-shore patrols
– March 1942
– two tanks were bogged down in mud
– the tankers were working to get them out
– Japanese Regiment entered the area
– Lt. Col. Miller ordered tanks and artillery to fire at point-blank range
– Miller ran from tank to tank directing fire
– wiped out Japanese regiment
– Miller was meeting with the tank commanders and radio operators
– the whistling sound of a shell was heard and everyone hit the ground
– the shell exploded a few yards from them
– when they got up, Miller was still standing and said, “Those sons of bitches.”
– 3 April 1942
– Japanese launched a major offensive
– tanks sent into various sectors to stop the Japanese advance
– 6 April 1942
– four tanks sent to support 45th Philippine Infantry and 75th Infantry, Philippine Scouts
– one tank knocked out by an anti-tank fire at the junction of Trails 8 & 6
– other tanks covered withdraw
– 3rd Platoon sent up the west coast road
– near Mount Samat ran into heavy Japanese force
– the tanks withdrew to Marivales
– 8 April 1942
– fighting on East Coast Road at Cabcaban
Prisoner of War:
– 9 April 1942
– received order to destroy equipment and report to kilometer marker 168.2.
– Provisional Tank Group Headquarters
– Japanese officers told Col. Ernest Miller to keep them there until ordered to move
– 10 April 1942
– 7:00 P.M. – started the march from Provisional Tank Group headquarters
– 3:00 A.M. – halted and rested for an hour
– 4:00 A.M. – resume march
– at times slipped on remains of the dead who had been killed by Japanese shelling
– 11 April 1942
– 8:00 A.M. -reached Lamao
– allowed to forage for food
– 9:00 A.M. – resumed march
– Noon – reached Limay and the main road
– officers, majors and up, separated from lower-ranking officers and enlisted men
– escaped, with Tom and James Hicks of C Company, for two days until they were recaptured
– started march a second time
– took Muther 11 days to complete the march
– at one point he was jabbed with a bayonet in the back because a guard felt he
   wasn’t moving fast enough
About the march, he said, “If you fell down, they would just kill you. You had to stay on your feet.”
He recalled: “One night we got in late and walked over something soft. When we got up the next morning, we saw they were dead bodies.”
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
– 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
– POWs in the camp hospital lay on the floor elbow to elbow
– operations on POWs were performed with mess kit knives
– only one medic out of six medics – assigned to care for 50 sick POWs – was well enough
   to work
– as many as 50 POWs died each day
– each morning dead were found everywhere in the camp and stacked up under the hospital
– the ground under hospital was scrapped and cover with lime to clean it
– the dead were moved to this area and the section where they had laid was scrapped and
   covered with lime
– usually not buried for two or three days
– work details: if a POW could walk, he was sent out on a work detail
– POWs on burial detail often had dysentery and malaria
– POWs volunteer to go out on work details to get out of camp
– Bridge Detail
– POWs went out on detail to get out of Camp O’Donnell
– 1 May 1942 – Bridge Building Detail
– Bridge Building Detail
– Frank recalled:
“One day they loaded us up in trucks to take us from O’Donnell to the bridge. Along the way, we passed a pregnant Filipino lady
holding a little boy. The kid waved the V for victory sign at us. A Jap soldier ran right over there, stabbed the woman in the stomach and cut that little kid’s fingers off. They laughed all the way to the bridge. That made us mad as hell, but there was nothing we could do.”
– American commanding officer – Lt. Col. Ted Wickord, 192nd Tank Battalion
– the detail was made up of 300 POWs – most were members of 17th Ordinance,
   and the 192nd and 194th Tank Battalions
– Wickord did this to get them out of Camp O’Donnell
– built three bridges
– Japanese commanding officer allowed POWs to roam the barrios, but they could not go beyond
   the boundaries of the barrio
– Calauan Bridge – first bridge
– Filipinos had a doctor and nurses care for POWs and give them medicine
– arranged for the POWs to attend a meal in their honor
– Batangas Bridge
– 12 POWs were selected to attend a dinner given by Roman Catholic nuns
– Col. Wickord picked the 12 POWs who looked like they needed the meal the most
– Candelaria Bridge
– slept in an old coconut mill with a fence around it
– twice a week the Filipinos brought bread and other food for the POWs to supplement their meals
– POWs sent to Cabanatuan
– on this detail, 10 POWs were executed after one POW escaped
– detail ended August 1942
– Cabanatuan #1
– original name – Camp Pangatian
– Philippine Army Base built for 91st Philippine Army Division
– put into use by the Japanese as a POW camp
– actually three camps
– Camp 1: POWs from Camp O’Donnell sent there in an attempt to lower death rate
– Camp 2: two miles away
– all POWs moved from there because of a lack of water
– later used for Naval POWs
– Camp 3: six miles from Camp 2
– POWs from Corregidor and from hospitals sent there
– camp created to keep Corregidor POWs separated from Bataan POWs
– Corregidor POWs were in better shape
– January 1943 – POWs from Camp 3 consolidated into Camp 1
– Camp Administration:
– the Japanese left POWs to run the camp on their own
– Japanese entered camp when they had a reason
– POWs patrolled fence to prevent escapes
– Note: men who attempted to escape were recaptured
– Japanese beat them for days
– executed them
– Blood Brother Rule
– POWs put into groups of ten
– if one escaped the others would be executed
– housed in same barracks
– worked on details together
– Barracks:
– each barracks held 50 men
– often held between 60 and 120 men
– slept on bamboo slats without mattresses, covers, and mosquito netting
– diseases spread easily
– no showers
– Morning Roll Call:
– stood at attention
– frequently beaten over their heads for no reason
– when POWs lined up for roll call, it was a common practice for Japanese guards, after the
   POWs lined up, to kick the POWs in their shins with their hobnailed boots since they
   didn’t like the way the POWs lined up
– Work Details:
– Two main details
– the farm and airfield
– farm detail
– POWs cleared land and grew camotes, cassava, taro, sesame, and various greens
– Japanese took what was grown
– Guards:
– Big Speedo – spoke little English
– in charge of the detail
– fair in his treatment of POWs
– spoke little English
– to get POWs to work faster said, “speedo”
– Little Speedo
– also used “speedo” when he wanted POWs to work faster
– fair in his treatment of POWs
– Smiley
– always smiling
– could not be trusted
– meanest of guards
– Airfield Detail:
– Japanese built an airfield for fighters
– POWs cut grass, removed dirt, and leveled ground
– at first moved dirt in wheelbarrows
– later pushed mining cars
– Guards:
– Air Raid
– in charge
– usually fair but unpredictable
– had to watch him
– Donald Duck
– always talking
– sounded like the cartoon character
– unpredictable – beat POWs
– POWs told him that Donald Duck was a big American movie star
– at some point, he saw a Donald Duck cartoon
– POWs stayed away from him when he came back to camp
– Work Day: 7:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.
– worked 6 days a week
– had Sunday off
– Other Details:
– work details sent out to cut wood for POW kitchens and plant rice
– they also were frequently hit with a pick handle, for no reason, as they counted off
– POWs on the rice planting detail were punished by having their faces pushed into the mud
   and stepped on their heads to drive their faces deeper into the mud
– the POWs had to go into a shed to get the tools, as they came out, they were hit on their
   heads
– if the guards on the detail decided the POW wasn’t doing what he should be doing, he was
   beaten
– many POWs on details were able to smuggle in medicine, food, and tobacco into the camp
– Burial Detail
– POWs worked in teams of four
– carried 4 to 6 dead to the cemetery at a time in litters
– a grave contained from 15 to 20 bodies
– daily POW meal
– 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, sweet potato or corn
– rice was the main staple, few vegetables or fruits
– Camp Hospital:
– 30 Wards
– each ward could hold 40 men
– frequently had 100 men in each
– two tiers of bunks
– sickest POWs on the bottom tier
– each POW had a 2 foot by 6-foot area to lie in
– Zero Ward
– given the name because it had been missed when counting wards
– became ward where those who were going to die were sent
– fenced off from other wards
– Japanese guards would not go near it
– POWs sent there had little to no chance of surviving
– medical staff had little to no medicine to treat sick
– many deaths from disease caused by malnutrition
– hospitalized – 4 April 1943
– cerebral malaria and beriberi
– discharged – no date was given
– POWs sent to Manila – 18 September 1943
Hell Ship:
Coral Maru
– Note: Ship was also known as the Taga Maru
– Sailed: Manila – 20 September 1943
– Arrived: Takaro, Formosa – 23 September 1943
– Sailed: 26 September 1943
– Arrived: Moji, Japan – 5 October 1943
POW Camp:
– Japan:
Hirohata #12-B
– the camp
– less than two acres in area
– 200′ by 400′ in area
– surrounded by a 12′ high wooden fence that was topped with bamboo pointed bamboo spears and barbwire
– Housing:
– POWs housed in two 50′ by 100′ barracks with were not insulated and numerous windows
– slept on straw mattresses on wooden platforms
– the lower platform was 16′ above the floor
– 240 POWs lived in each barracks
– Latrines
– two 25′ by 50′ latrines in the camp
– Meals:
– prepared in a 20′ by 40′ building
– ten men assigned to the kitchen
– cooked food in 13 cauldrons
– rice and watery soup main meal
– POWs ate in barracks on tables in the aisles
– Red Cross food never issued to POWs
– Hospital:
– the American doctor in charge of the hospital diagnosed POWs, but his diagnosis was
   overruled by a Japanese corpsman
– corpsman ordered POWs with fevers to work
– Red Cross medical supplies seldom issued to POWs
– Clothing:
– Red Cross clothing and shoes were misappropriated by Japanese
– Work:
– 30 POWs worked at the camp doing camp maintenance
– 400 POWs worked at the Japan Iron Works Company
– marched to and from iron works
– POWs shoveled coal, fired furnaces, unloaded coke, loaded pig iron onto trains and ships,
   unloaded iron ore from trains and ships
– POW worked from 7:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.
– Punishment:
– Japanese POWs for slightest reasons
– POWs beaten with belts, rope, clubs, fists
– hit in faces with belts
– for stealing rice, 16 POWs were lined up and beaten in their faces with a wide, doubled over
   belt
– another 40 POWs were made to kneel for 8 hours
– every POW in the camp was made to kneel for 5 hours because a rule was violated
– while Frank was in camp POWs were beaten for stealing rice while unloading a ship
– The guard, Cpl Kitro Ishida hit them with a belt, rope, fists, and a club
– he also forced water down their noses and forced them underwater
– Ishida was sentenced to a year in prison after the war.
– POWs who broke a camp rule were submerged in water and made to stand nude in the cold
– faces pushed underwater in troughs and hit in the back of the head with clubs when they attempted to pull face out of the water
– One guard drilled the POWs and beat them if they missed a step even though the orders were being given in Japanese
Note: During his time as a POW, Frank kept a record of the members of C Company. He smuggled his record from camp to camp.
– the camp was 60 miles from Hiroshima
– did not see the bomb
– POWs did see the smoke swirling up for two days from the city and said, “We were being bombed all the time by American planes anyway. We didn’t realize what was happening down there at Hiroshima.”
Liberated:
– 9 September 1945
– 12 September 1945
– returned to Philippine Islands
– flown to Hawaii
– Arrived at Hamilton Airfield, California – 22 September 1945
– Letterman General Hospital – San Francisco, California
– issued 90 day pass home
Married: Edna Mae Norred – 2 February 1946
Discharged: March 1947 – Salt Lake City, Utah
Children:
– 2 daughters
– 1 son
Occupation: Dairy Farmer
Note: Of his time as a POW he said, “The only our gang kept our sanity is that we played poker and laughed about all the things we went through Still, the first ten years it was kind of rough. I tip my hat to the wives. All the women who were married to the prisoners on the death march should get a purple heart.”
Died: 1 June 2006 – Salinas, California
Buried:
– Garden of Memories Memorial Park – Salinas, California

 

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