Cpl. Glenn Stuart Oliver was born on April 28, 1919, in Minnesota. He was the son of Stuart & Erma Stewart-Oliver. With his two sisters, he grew up in Aitkin Township, Aitkin County, Minnesota. He graduated from Aitkin High School in 1937 and worked as a bookkeeper in the Forestry Office of Civilian Conservation Corps. He joined the Minnesota National Guard on October 18, 1940, after the draft act had been passed. Since he joined the National Guard, he was not required to register for Selective Service.
Glenn married his high school sweetheart, Ester Marie Brown on February 7, 1941, just three days before he reported to active duty. After his one year of military service, his wife and he planned on moving to Tacoma, Washington. On February 10, 1941, Glenn’s tank company of the Minnesota National Guard was called to federal service as A Company, 194th Tank Battalion. They were sent to Fort Lewis, Washington, for training leaving on Thursday, February 20 at 12:19 A.M. and arriving at the base at noon on Sunday, February 23.
A day started with morning reveille at 6:00. During this time the men dressed, shaved, made their cots, policed the grounds around the barracks, and swept the floors of the barracks. Next, at 6:30 they ate breakfast, and at 7:30 drilled until 11:30. They ate lunch and drilled again from 1:00 P.M. until 4:30 P.M. Evening mess was after 5:00, and they were free after it. The only men not off duty were the six men from each company assigned to guard duty for the night. Those men took shifts during the night with two men on duty and four off.
There was a canteen near their barracks which they frequented and a movie theater on the base. On weekends, many of them went into Tacoma or Olympia. During their time at the fort, many visited the site where the Narrows Bridge had stood before it collapsed into Puget Sound late in 1940. Some men attended church services on Sundays which were held at different times for the different denominations.
The theater in Area 12 was not finished. It was there that the tanks crews parked their tanks. When it was finished all the tankers had to do is cross a road to get to their tanks.
Men who needed specialized training were sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, at various times to attend school. There, they learned tank maintenance, radio operations, small vehicle maintenance, and other jobs.
Glenn was sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for radio school on March 18. He remained there for several months before returning to Ft. Lewis after qualifying as a radio operator and repairman from the Radio Electronics Repair School. On June 11, he completed the class. He was given a short leave home before he returned to Ft. Lewis and reported for duty on June 30. While he was at Ft. Knox, the company had a dinner in honor of the fifth anniversary of the funding of the tank company on June 10, 1936.
On August 15, 1941, the 194th received orders, from Ft. Knox, Kentucky, 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 – who was flying lower than the other planes – 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 hundreds of miles away that had a large radio transmitter. The squadron continued its flight plan and flew south to Mariveles before returning to Clark Field. By the time the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.
The next morning, another squadron was sent to the area and found that the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat which was seen making its way toward shore. Since communication between and Air Corps and Navy was poor, the boat was not intercepted. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
In September 1941, the battalion was ordered to San Francisco, California, for transport to the Philippine Islands. Arriving by train at Ft. Masin in San Francisco, the company was ferried, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island, where they received physicals and inoculations from the battalion’s medical detachment. Those men who failed the physical were replaced.
On September 8, 1941, the battalion was boarded onto the S.S. President Calvin Coolidge. The ship sailed the same day. The battalion arrived at Hawaii on September 13, remained in port most of the day, and sailed later in the day, but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes, where it was joined by the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Astoria, and the U.S.S. Guadalupe – a replenishment oiler – that were its escorts.
During the voyage, on several occasions, smoke from unknown ships was seen on the horizon. The cruiser revved up its engines and intercepted the ships. On each occasion, it turned out that the ship belonged to a friendly country.
The ships crossed the International Dateline on Tuesday, September 16, and the date changed to Thursday, September 18. On September 26th, they arrived at Manila Bay at 7:00 A.M. but did not reach Manila until later in the morning. The soldiers did not disembark until 3:00 P.M. The maintenance section of the battalion helped 17th Ordnance unload the tanks and reattach the turrets which took until the next morning.
Since the commanding officer of the installation, General Edward King, had not received advanced warning of the arrival of the units, the tankers found themselves living in tents along the main road between Ft. Stotsenburg and Clark Airfield. 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. They did not move into their barracks until November 15.
The description of the barracks was that from the floor, the barrack’s walls were open with screening going up three feet from the bottom of the outside walls. Above that, the walls were woven bamboo that allowed the air to pass through them. Bathroom facilities appeared to be limited and a man was considered lucky if he washed by a faucet with running water.
The workday was from 7:00 to 11:30 A.M. and from 1:30 to 2:30 P.M. For recreation the soldiers spent their free time bowling or going to the movies at the base theater. They also played horseshoes, softball, badminton, or threw a football around to pass the time. On Wednesday afternoons, they went swimming.
Activities outside the base were available and they also went to Mt. Aarayat National Park and swam in the swimming pool there that was filled with mountain water. The men were allowed to go to Manila in small groups. They also went to canoeing at Pagsanjan Falls in their swimsuits and described the country was described as being beautiful.
About a week before the Japanese attack, the tanks were ordered to their positions around Clark Airfield. It is known that Pfc. Joseph Lamkin was a member of his tank crew. Two crew members remained with the tanks at all times, both day and night. Glenn’s tank’s position was in some tall Cogan Grass and bushes directly across from the control tower and maintenance buildings. They had orders not to fire unless paratroopers were being used.
On December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Glenn lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field. He said:
“On the day of the attack, Monday, December 8, 1941, we were standing in front of our tank counting, what we thought were our planes coming towards Clark Field, two nice formations with 27 planes in each group, for a total of 54 planes. Then we heard a strange whistling noise and bombs began to explode to the north of us and then on the buildings and runway in front of us, my introduction to war.”
During the attack, he was hit in the head by shrapnel and was hospitalized. He was awarded the Purple Heart.
On December 26, 1941, his tank platoon, under the command of Lt. Harold Costigan, was in the area of Carmen at the Agno River. As the Japanese advanced, Costigan realized that unless he got his platoon out of the area that they would be trapped. He ordered his tanks through Carmen.
“Several days later we were ordered to move our tanks south through Manila and we went into bivouac near Muntinlupa.
“December 24, 1941, our tanks moved north back through Manila on Highway 3 to the Agno River at Carmen. The bridge over the Agno had been destroyed and was unusable, Our platoon of five tanks, Lt. Costigan’s, had taken positions to the west, to the left of Highway 3. There was a road running parallel on the south side if the Agno River and out tanks took up positions between the road and river in heavy cover. I believe Sgt. Strobel’s tank was closest to Highway 3; he was wounded by a mortar shell explosion or fragments and died that afternoon, December 26, 1941.
“Our tank was next in line, about 100 yards further west. Late afternoon we moved our tank away from the riverbank, back across the road into some heavy cover. The tank driver was PFC Joe Lamkin; I was the radio operator and gunner. I do not remember who was the assistant driver and bow gunner. We were to remain there until after it got dark and at a predetermined time withdraw to the south of Highway 3. As soon as we were on the road we came under heavy enemy fire. I was in the turret using the machine gun and the assistant driver was using his machine gun. PFC Lamkin hollered for us to quit firing because we were approaching a roadblock of fallen trees across the road and our tracers were making it hard for him to see. Joe got us safely over and through the roadblock.”
As the tanks advanced through the barrio, they were fired on by Japanese guns. The tanks were firing their guns as they went through the barrio. The tanks made a sharp right turn and received fire from Japanese guns. They continued out of the barrio as the Japanese fired mortars at them.
While attempting to get through Carmen, a Japanese soldier managed to attach a thermite mine on Glenn’s tank in a flat outside area above one of the interior ammunition trays. The mine burnt its way through the armor and fell into the ammunition tray. Glen said of this:
“It was only a short distance to the junction with Highway 3, we then turned to our right and south on Highway 3 and our retreat. As soon as we had turned to our right and south on Highway 3 and our retreat. As soon as we had turned south, I opened the pistol port on the left side of the turret and saw a Jap soldier running away from our tank and lay down in the field. I thought something bad was about to happen. I hollered a warning to the other two. About the same time, an explosion followed by white-hot molten metal burned through the armor plate and poured into the left sponson ammunition tray for the machine gun operated by remote control by the driver. We continued down the road a safe distance. stopped, and tried to put out the fire. We used our fire extinguisher, then used a shovel and dirt to try to put out the fire in the engine compartment. While we were fighting the fire, we heard another tank coming. This was another of our tanks; they stopped to help us, but all our efforts could not save the tank. They turned their turret around and fired a 37 mm armor-piercing shell through the tank engine. The three of us rode outside of this tank until we were stopped by Lt. Col. Miller; so we reported what happened. He had the tank keep on going south, but asked for two volunteers to stay with his small roadblock of two or three tanks, a half-track, and another half-track with a 75mm cannon (SPM). Joe and I offered to stay as replacements. After midnight, December 27, 1941, we ambushed and knocked out four or five Jap tanks and then withdrew.”
Holding the roadblock stopped the Japanese from overrunning the new defensive line that was being put in place.
On January 1, 1942, Oliver was promoted to the rank of corporal by Capt. Arthur Root. Root assumed command of Company A, after Capt. Edward Burke was captured. At 2:00 or 3:00 A.M., Oliver was part of a tank crew of 2nd Lt. Archie Rue, Pvt. James Bogart, and PFC Joe Lamkin. Suddenly, they were fired on by a Japanese machine gun. The men quickly entered their tank and Oliver fired on the machine gun. The exchanges continued until Oliver heard the sound of a mortar round. He ducked but was wounded. The small piece of shrapnel was later removed below his eye.
Also on January 1, conflicting orders, about who was in command of the area, were received by the defenders who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5 and, at the same time, allowing 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 bridge over the Pampanga River about withdrawing from the bridge with half of the defenders withdrawing. 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.
At 2:30 A.M., on January 6, the Japanese attacked at Remedios in force using smoke which was an attempt by the Japanese to destroy the tank battalions. That night the tanks withdrew into the peninsula with the 192nd holding its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leapfrog past it, cross the bridge, and then cover the 192nd’s withdrawal over the bridge. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
On the night of January 7, the tank battalions were covering the withdrawal of all troops around Hermosa. Around 6:00 A.M., before the bridge had been destroyed by the engineers, the 192nd crossed the bridge.
The next day, the battalion was between Culo and Hermosa and assigned a road to enter Bataan on which was worse than having no road. The half-tracks kept throwing their rubber tracks and members of 17th Ordnance assigned to each battalion had to re-track them in dangerous situations. After daylight, Japanese artillery fire was landing all around the tanks.
The next day, a composite tank company was formed under the command of Capt. Donald Hanes, B Co., 192nd. Its job was to protect the East Coast Road north of Hermosa open and to stop Japanese tanks attempting to use it to overrun the next defensive line that was forming. While in this position, the tanks were under constant enemy artillery fire. The rest of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of the Abucay-Hacienda Road.
When word came that a bridge was going to be blown up, all the tanks were ordered out of the area, which included the composite company. This could have resulted in a catastrophe, but the Japanese did not take advantage of the situation.
The tanks bivouacked south of the Pilar-Bagac Road and about two kilometers from the East Coast Road. It had almost been one month since the tank crews had a rest and the tanks had maintenance work done on them by 17th Ordnance. It was also on this day that the tank platoons were reduced to three tanks per tank platoon. The men rested and the tanks received the required maintenance. Most of the tank tracks had worn down to bare metal and the radial engines long past their 400-hour overhauls.
The battalions were sent to cover the junctions of the Back Road and East Road with the Abucay-Hacienda Road on January 25th. While holding the position, the 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, fought its way to the position at 3:00 A.M. One platoon was sent to the front of the column of trucks which were loading the troops. The tanks provided heavy fire so that the infantry could withdraw and inflicted heavy losses on the Japanese.
Later on January 25, both the 192nd and 194th held a defensive line on the Bakanga-Cardre-BaniBani Roads until the withdraw was completed at midnight. They held the position until the night of January 26/27, when they dropped back to a new defensive line roughly along the Pilar-Bagac Roads. When ordered to withdraw to the new line, the 192nd found that the bridge at Balanga, that they were supposed to use had been destroyed by enemy fire. To withdraw, they had to use secondary roads to get around the barrio and tanks were still straggling in at noon.
The tank battalions, on January 28, were given the job of protecting the beaches, while the battalion’s half-tracks were used to patrol the roads. The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
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.”
The tank battalions, on their own, took up the job of protecting the airfields at Cabcaban, Bataan, and Mariveles, since Japanese paratroopers were known to be available. The tanks and half-tracks were well hidden in the jungle around the airfields and different plans were in place to be used against Japanese forces. There was only one major alert in March when 73 Japanese planes came over.
In March, the amount of gasoline was reduced to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except the tanks. This would later be dropped to ten gallons a day. At the same time, food rations were cut in half again. Also at this time, Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that a platoon of tanks be sent to Corregidor.
On April 3, 1942, the Japanese launched an attack supported by artillery and aircraft. A large force of Japanese troops came over Mount Samat and descended down the south face of the volcano. This attack wiped out two divisions of defenders and left a large area of the defensive line open to the Japanese.
A counter-attack was launched – on April 7 – by the 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts which was supported by tanks. Its objective was to restore the line, but Japanese infiltrators prevented this from happening. During this action, one tank was knocked out but the remaining tanks successfully withdrew. C Company, 194th, was attached to the 192nd and had only seven tanks left.
It was the evening of April 8 that Gen. Edward P. King decided that further resistance was futile, since approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight, and he estimated they would last one more day. In addition, he had over 6,000 troops who sick or wounded and 40,000 civilians who he feared would be massacred. His troops were on one-quarter rations, and even at that ration, he had two days of food left. He also believed his troops could fight for one more day.
At 6:00 P.M. that tank battalion commanders received this order: “You will make plans, to be communicated to company commanders only, and be prepared to destroy within one hour after receipt by radio, or other means, of the word ‘CRASH’, all tanks and combat vehicles, arms, ammunition, gas, and radios: reserving sufficient trucks to close to rear echelons as soon as accomplished.”
It was at 10:00 P.M. that the decision was made to send a jeep – under a white flag – behind enemy lines to negotiate terms of surrender. The problem soon became that no white cloth could be found. A truck driver for A Company, 192nd, realized that he had bedding buried in the back of his truck and searched for it. The bedding became the “white flags” that were flown on the jeeps. At 11:40 P.M., the ammunition dumps were destroyed.
At 2:oo A.M. April 9, Gen. King sent a jeep under a white flag carrying Colonel Everett C. Williams, Col. James V. Collier and Major Marshall Hurt to meet with the Japanese commander about terms of surrender. (The driver was from the tank group.) Shortly after daylight Collier and Hunt returned with word of the appointment. At 6:45 A.M., the order “CRASH” was sent out and the tank crews circled their tanks. Each tank fired an armor-piercing shell into the engine of the tank in front of it. They also opened the gasoline cocks inside the tank compartments and dropped hand grenades into the tanks. Most of the company waited in their bivouac for the Japanese to make contact, while others attempted to reach Corregidor which had not surrendered.
Gen. King with his two aides, Maj. Cothran and Captain Achille C. Tisdelle Jr. got into a jeep carrying a large white flag. They were followed by another jeep – also flying another large white flag – with Col. Collier and Maj. Hurt in it. As the jeeps made their way north they were strafed and small bombs were dropped by a Japanese plane. The drivers of both jeeps and the jeeps were provided by the tank group and both men managed to avoid the bullets. The strafing ended when a Japanese reconnaissance plane ordered the fighter pilot to stop strafing.
About 10:00 A.M. the jeeps reached Lamao where they were received by a Japanese Major General who informed King that he reported his coming to negotiate a surrender and that an officer from Japanese command would arrive to do the negotiations. The Japanese officer also told him that his troops would no attack for thirty minutes while King decided what he would do.
After a half-hour, no Japanese officer had arrived from their headquarters and the Japanese attack had resumed. King sent Col Collier and Maj Hunt back to his command with instructions that any unit inline with the Japanese advance should fly white flags.
Shortly after this was done a Japanese colonel and interpreter arrived. King was told the officer was Homma’s Chief of Staff and he had come to discuss King’s surrender. King attempted to get insurances from the Japanese that his men would be treated as prisoners of war, but the Japanese officer – through his interpreter – accused him of declining to surrender unconditionally. At one point King stated he had enough trucks and gasoline to carry his troops out of Bataan. He was told that the Japanese would handle the movement of the prisoners. The two men talked back and forth until the colonel said through the interpreter, “The Imperial Japanese Army are not barbarians.” King found no choice but to accept him at his word.
Between 6:30 and 6:45 on the morning of April 9, 1942, the tankers received the word that all Filipino and American troops would surrender the next day. Glenn recalled his tank crew drained the recoil oil from the 37 mm canon, plugged the rags and a cleaning rod, and set the tank on fire. They used a long lanyard to fire the cannon to destroy it. Once this was done, they were ordered to Provisional Tank Group Headquarters and ordered to remain there.
The Japanese arrived on the morning of April 10th and ordered the Prisoners of War to the trail that ran near the headquarters. The trial the POWs were on ended when they reached the main road. The first thing the Japanese did was to separate the officers from the enlisted men. The Prisoners of War were then left in the sun for the rest of the day. That night they were ordered north.
The members of the 194th did receive orders to march until around 7:00 P.M. and were marched until 3:00 in the morning. At that time, the marchers were given a one hour break. At 4:00 A.M., they began to march again. They reached the barrio of Lamao at around 8:00 A.M. on the morning of April 11th. There the POWs were allowed to try to find food, but little was found.
On the march, Glenn, Sgt. Ralph Hollingsworth and other members of A Company carried Pvt. Lyle Gravitt. They were given a rest when a Japanese guard ordered them to move. On the ground, in the blanket, they left Gravitt. It was at a reunion 40 years later, that Glenn learned Lyle Gravitt had not been killed.
The POWs again were ordered to move at 9:00 A.M. and reached Limay at noon. It was at this time the Japanese put officers, with the rank of major and higher, in trucks and drove them to Balanga. These officers were then marched to Orani. For the lower-ranking officers and enlisted men, Limay was where they really started the death march. Up to this time, the guards, regular combat soldiers, had shown a great deal of respect for them. As they got further north, and the guards were changed, the treatment got worse.
They marched north through Orani and arrived there on the 12th. There, at 6:30 P.M., the higher ranking officers rejoined the march. The men noticed they were being marched at a faster pace and that the guards seemed nervous.
The POWs made their way north to Hermosa, where the road went from gravel to pavement. The change in the surface made the march easier on the men. When they were allowed to sit, those who attempted to lay down were jabbed with bayonets.
They resumed the march and at some point, it began to rain. Many of the POWs attempted to get drinks from the rain. About 4:00 P.M., the POWs reached San Fernando and were herded into a bullpen. The ground was covered in human waste from previous POWs. They next made their way to the train station. At 4:00 in the morning, the Japanese woke the POWs and marched them to the train station and packed into boxcars that could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese packed 100 POWs into each car and closed the doors. The POWs rode the train to Capas arriving there at 9:00 A.M. They disembarked from the cars and walked the last eight kilometers to Camp O’Donnell.
Camp O’Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army Base that the Japanese put into use as a POW camp on April 1, 1942. They believed the camp could hold 15,000 to 20,000 POWs. When the POWs arrived at the camp, they were searched and anyone found with Japanese money was separated from the other POWs and sent to the guardhouse. These POWs were accused of looting the bodies of dead Japanese soldiers. Over several days, gunshots were heard coming from southeast of the camp as they were executed.
The Japanese also took away any extra clothing that the POWs carried with them and refused to return it. Since there was no water to wash their clothing, the POWs threw away soiled clothing and stripped the dead of their clothing. Few of the POWs in the camp hospital had clothing.
There was only one water faucet for the entire camp and men stood in line from 2½ to 8 hours waiting for a drink. The Japanese guard in charge of the spigot would turn it off, for no reason, and the next man in line would have to wait up to four hours for it to be turned on again. Water for cooking food had to be hauled three miles to the camp. Mess kits could not be cleaned.
Since most of the POWs had dysentery, the slit trenches overflowed which resulted in flies being everywhere in the camp including the camp kitchen and in the food. The camp hospital had no water, soap, or disinfectant which also caused diseases to spread. When the ranking American doctor presented a letter with the medicines and medical supplies they needed to treat the sick, the camp commander, Captain Yoshio Tsuneyoshi, told him never to write another letter. He also said that the only things he wanted to know about the POWs were their names and serial numbers after they died.
The Archbishop of Manila sent a truck full of medical supplies to the camp, but the Japanese refused to let it into the camp. When a representative of the Philippine Red Cross told a Japanese lieutenant that they could set up a 150-bed hospital for the POWs, he was slapped in the face by the lieutenant. Medicines sent to the camp by the Red Cross were confiscated by the Japanese for their own use.
The sick POWs were put into the camp hospital and most of the men who entered it never came out alive. The Japanese were so afraid of contracting an illness that they put a barbed wire fence up around it. The POWs in the hospital lay elbow to elbow on the floor and operations were performed with knives from mess kits. Only one medic, out of every six assigned to treat the sick, was healthy enough to perform his duties.
Each morning, the POWs walked around the camp and collected the bodies of the dead and placed them under the hospital building. To clean the ground, the POWs moved the bodies, scraped the ground, put down lime to sterilize the ground, moved the bodies back to the cleaned area, and repeated the process where the bodies had lain. It took two to three days to bury a man after he died.
Any POW, if he could walk, went out on a work detail for the day such as the one collected wood for the POW kitchen. Some POWs went out on work details which lasted for months to get out of the camp. The worse detail a man could be put on was the burial detail. On this detail, two POWs carried a dead man to the camp cemetery. Once there, they put the body in a grave and held the body down with a pole, since the water table was high, and covered it with dirt. The next morning, when the burials resumed, the dead were often sitting up or had been dug up by wild dogs.
After arriving, Glenn quickly developed wet beriberi. This vitamin deficiency prevented him from urinating and caused his body to fill with fluid. He was sent to Bataan to do construction work. The detail was composed of 75 Prisoners of War whose job it was to rebuild bridges that had been destroyed during the American retreat.
The detachment was sent to Calauan. There, the POWs were amazed by the concern shown for them by the Filipino people. The townspeople arranged for their doctors and nurses to care for the POWs and give them medication. They also arranged for the POWs to attend a meal in their honor.
The POWs were next sent to Batangas to rebuild another bridge. Again, the Filipino people did all they could to see that the Americans got the food and care they needed. Somehow the Filipinos convinced the Japanese to allow them to attend a meal to celebrate the completion of the new bridge.
The next bridge the POWs were sent to build was in Batangas. Once again, the people of the town did whatever they could to help the Americans. An order of Roman Catholic sisters, who had been recently freed from custody, invited Lt. Col. Wickord and twelve POWs for a dinner. Wickord picked the twelve sickest looking POWs.
The last bridge the POWs rebuilt was at Candelaria. At this barrio, the POWs slept in a coconut processing mill with a fence around it. When the bridge building detail ended, Glenn was sent to Cabanatuan #1 arriving there on September 26.
While he was on the bridge detail, his parents received two messages from the War Department. The first message arrived in May or early June.
“Dear Mrs. E. Oliver:
“According to War Department records, you have been designated as the emergency addressee of Corporal Glenn S. Oliver, 20, 700, 250, who, according to the latest information available, was serving in the Philippine Islands at the time of the final surrender.
“I deeply regret that it is impossible for me to give you more information than is contained in this letter. In the last days before the surrender of Bataan, there were casualties which were not reported to the War Department. Conceivably the same is true of the surrender of Corregidor and possibly other islands of the Philippines. The Japanese Government has indicated its intention of conforming to the terms of the Geneva Convention with respect to the interchange of information regarding prisoners of war. At some future date, this Government will receive through Geneva a list of persons who have been taken prisoners of war. Until that time the War Department cannot give you positive information.
“The War Department will consider the persons serving in the Philippine Islands as “missing in action” from the date of surrender of Corregidor, May 7, 1942, until definite information to the contrary is received. It is to be hoped that the Japanese Government will communicate a list of prisoners of war at an early date. At that time you will be notified by this office in the event that his name is contained in the list of prisoners of war. In the case of persons known to have been present in the Philippines and who are not reported to be prisoners of war by the Japanese Government, the War Department will continue to carry them as “missing in action” in the absence of information to the contrary, until twelve months have expired. At the expiration of twelve months and in the absence of other information the War Department is authorized to make a final determination.
“Recent legislation makes provision to continue the pay and allowances of persons carried in a “missing” status for a period not to exceed twelve months; to continue, for the duration of the war, the pay and allowances of persons known to have been captured by the enemy; to continue allotments made by missing personnel for a period of twelve months and allotments or increase allotments made by persons by the enemy during the time they are so held; to make new allotments or increase allotments to certain dependents defined in Public Law 490, 77th Congress. The latter dependents generally include the legal wife, dependent children under twenty-one years of age and dependent mother, or such dependents as having been designated in official records. Eligible dependents who can establish a need for financial assistance and are eligible to receive this assistance the amount allotted will be deducted from pay which would otherwise accrue to the credit of the missing individual.
“Very Truly yours
J. A. Ulio (signed)
The Adjutant General”
In July 1942, his family received another message 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, Corporal Glenn S. Oliver 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.”
The camp had been home to the 91st Philippine Army Division and was originally known as Camp Pangatian. At the camp, the prisoners were fed 16 ounces of cooked rice at each meal, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, and sweet potato or corn.
The camp was actually three separate camps. Camp #1 was where those men who had been POWs at Camp O’Donnell were sent. Camp #2 was four miles away from Camp 1, and because of its water problem closed quickly. It was later reopened and housed Naval POWs. Camp #3 was six miles from Camp 2 and later housed the POW from Corregidor, from the hospitals on Bataan, and those who had been at Camp 2. These POWs were generally in better shape than the men who had taken part in the march. Frank was assigned to Barracks 10 at Camp 1.
Details at Camp 1 went out daily to cut wood for the camp kitchens, plant rice, and farm. Each morning, when the POWs lined up for roll call, it was common practice, of the Japanese guards, to kick the POWs in their shins with their hobnailed boots. They also, for no apparent reason, frequently hit the POWs, as they stood at attention, with a pick handle as they counted off.
The POWs who went out on the rice planting detail had to get their tools from a tool shed. As they left the shed, it was the common practice of the guards, to hit the POWs, on the top of their heads. If a guard on the detail decided that a POW was not working hard enough, he was beaten. They also would push the man’s face into the mud and stepped on his head to force it down deeper. The POWs returning from the details often were able to smuggle food, medicine, and tobacco into the camp.
The POWs were underfed and the typical meal was 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, and sweet potato or corn. This resulted in many becoming ill since they could not fight off illnesses. The camp hospital consisted of 30 wards which each holding 40 men. It was more common for them to have 100 men in them. Each ward had two tiers of bunks with the sickest POWs lying on the lower bunk. Each man had approximately an area of 2 feet by 6 feet to lie in. A hole was cut into the platforms so that those suffering from dysentery could relieve themselves without leaving the tier.
The barracks used by the POWs were built to hold 50 POWs, but the Japanese put from 60 to 120 POWs in each one. There no shower facilities and the POWs slept on bamboo strips. In addition, no bedding, covers, or mosquito netting was provided which resulted in many becoming ill.
Zero Ward, which is where those who had little or no hope of recovering, were sent. It got its name because it was missed when the wards were being counted. The ward held those POWs who had little to no chance of leaving the hospital alive. Most of those who died, died because their bodies were too weak to fight the disease because of malnutrition. The Japanese were so afraid of becoming ill from being near the building that they put up a fence around it and would not go near it.
During roll call, it was common for the Japanese to hit the POWs over their heads because they did not like the way the line looked. If a prisoner was late for roll call or missed a detail, that POW was made to kneel on a ladder with a pole placed behind the knees to cut circulation. The prisoner stayed like this until he fell over.
The POWs were sent out on daily work details. One was to cut wood for the POW kitchens. The two major details were the farm detail and the airfield detail which lasted for years. A typical day on any detail lasted from 7:00 A.M. until 5:00 P.M. The POWs on the farm detail would have to go to a shed each morning to get tools. As they left the shed, the Japanese guards thought it was great fun to hit them over their heads.
The detail was under the command of “Big Speedo” who spoke very little English. When he wanted the POWs to work faster, he told the POWs “speedo.” Although he was known to have a temper, the POWs thought he was fair. Another guard was “Little Speedo” who was smaller and also used the word when he wanted the POWs to work faster. The POWs also felt he was pretty fair in his treatment of them.
“Smiley” was another guard who always had a smile on his face but could not be trusted. He was the meanest of the guards and beat men up for no reason. He liked to hit the POWs with the club. Any prisoner who he believed was not working hard enough got knocked over with it. Any prisoner who he believed was not working hard enough got knocked over with it. Each morning, after arriving at the farm, the POWs went into a tool shed to get their tools. As they left the shed, the guards hit them on their heads.
Other POWs worked in rice paddies. While working in the fields, the favorite punishment given to the men in the rice paddies was to have their faces pushed into the mud and stepped on by a guard to drive their faces deeper into the mud. Returning from a detail the POWs bought or were given, medicine, food, and tobacco, which they somehow managed to get into the camp even though they were searched when they returned.
Rice was the main food given to the POWs fed to them as “lugow” which meant “wet rice.” During their time in the camp, they received few vegetables and almost no fruit. Once in awhile, they received bread.
The camp hospital was known as “Zero Ward” because it was missed by the Japanese when they counted barracks. The sickest POWs were sent there to die. The Japanese put a fence up around the building to protect themselves, and they would not go into the building. There were two rolls of wooden platforms around the perimeter of the building. The sickest POWs were put on the lower platform which had holes cut into it so they could relieve themselves. Most of those who entered the ward died. At this time the death rate in the camp was 50 POWs a day.
During Glenn’s time in the camp, Glenn worked on the burial detail and on the camp farm. On the burial detail, the POWs worked in teams of four men. In the morning, they went to the cemetery and dug graves for the dead. In the afternoon, they went to the camp hospital to collect bodies. They put the naked bodies in litters and put as many as six bodies in them before carrying them to the camp cemetery where they would be placed in a grave which usually contained 15 to 20 other bodies. The bodies were nude because the POWs stripped them of clothing. The clothing was put into boiling water, dried, and given to a man who needed it.
The POWs grew vegetables but were not allowed to eat any of them. He and the other prisoners would steal what they could and eat it. The death rate at the camp was still 9 POWs a day into November 1942, which dropped in December when the Japanese issued Red Cross Packages for Christmas. In addition, other changes were made that lowered the number of deaths.
Glenn was selected for another work detail and sent to the Pasay School and built runways Nichols Field. He recalled he was drafted for the detail and left the camp on December 6, 1942, and remained on this detail for 21 months. They literally remove a mountain by hand to build the runway. The POWs had to fill mining cars with rubble and two men pushed the cart to another area to be dumped. The Japanese were brutal in their treatment of the POWs and Glenn witnessed the murder of two POWs and many beatings.
The first killing of a POW he witnessed involved what the POWs referred to as the water treatment. The man had a hose put down his throat and turned on. The water often caused the man’s internal organs to burst. The Japanese also kicked and punched the man’s body. Glenn recalled the man was made to stand up and then shot in the side of the head.
While working on what was referred to as “the cut,” a POW crawled off into the grass. He was found by the Japanese and shot several times with a pistol and left lying in the grass. At the end of the workday, Glenn and other POWs were made to dig a shallow grave and bury the man in it. He was still alive when they buried him. The two beatings he received involved food.
Meals for the POWs were leftovers from the Japanese kitchen and were often fish guts. When the detail ended, he was sent to Bilibid Prison for processing for shipment to Japan.
The POWs were sent to Bilibid Prison on September 1, 1944. During this time he was reunited with Lt. Harold Costigan. Costigan was nearly blind and unable to read. so Glenn read to him. He remained at Bilibid for five weeks.
On October 10, 1944, Glenn’s name appeared on a list of POWs who were being sent to Japan. The next day, he and the other selected POWs were marched to the Port Area of Manila. When they arrived there, it was determined by the Japanese that another group of POWs, which was scheduled to leave was ready to leave. The ship Glenn’s detachment of POWs was supposed to sail on, the Hokusen Maru, was also ready to leave. Since his detachment had not completely arrived, the Japanese switched ships. Glenn’s group of POWs was boarded onto the Arisan Maru.
On October 10, the POWs boarded the Arisan Maru and 1775 prisoners were crammed into the first hold of the ship which could hold 400 men. They were packed in so tightly that they could not move. Along the sides of the hold were shelves that served as bunks, but the bunks were so close together that a man could not lift himself up when he used one. Those standing had no room to lie down. The latrines for the prisoners were eight five-gallon cans, which the POWs could not use since they were packed in the hold so tightly. This resulted in the floor of the hold being covered with human waste.
Anton Cichy said, “For the first few days there were 1,800 of us together in one hold. I don’t know how big the hold was but we had to take turns to sit down. We were just kind of stuck together.”
Calvin Graef said about the conditions in the hold, “We were packed in so tight most men couldn’t get near the cans. And, of course, it was a physical impossibility for the sick in the back of the hold, the men suffering the tortures of diarrhea and dysentery. We waded in fecal matter. Most of the men went naked. The place was alive with lice, bedbugs, and roaches; the filth and stench were beyond description.”
The ship sailed the next day, but took a southerly route away from Taiwan and dropped anchor in a cove off Palawan Island. During the first 48 hours off Palawan, five POWs died. The POWs realized that the Japanese had removed the light bulbs from the lighting system, but that they had not turned off the power. They figured out a way to hook the ventilation system into the lights and had fresh air for two days. When the Japanese discovered what had been done, they turned off the power.
The POWs began developing heat blisters, and the Japanese conceded that more POWs would die unless they did something. The Japanese transferred POWs from the first hold to its second hold. This hold was partially filled with coal. During the transfer, one POW attempted to escape and was shot.
On October 20, the Arisan Maru returned to Manila, where, it joined a twelve ship convoy bound for Taiwan. The convoy sailed on October 21 after all the ships had been loaded. The Japanese refused to mark POW ships with red crosses to indicate they were carrying POWs. This made the ships targets for submarines. In addition, U.S. Military Intelligence was reading the Japanese code as fast as the Japanese. To protect this secret, they did not tell the submarine crews which ships were carrying POWs.
Graef described conditions in the hold. “There were so many (that died ) out of 1800. The condition in that hold…..men were just dying in a continuous stream. Me, holding their bellies in interlocked arms, stood up, screamed and died. You were being starved men were dying at such a pace we had to pile them up. It was like you were choking to death. Burial consisted of two men throwing another overboard.”
Cichy said, “The Japs told us that they’d be in Formosa the next day to pick up some cargo. They had to make room on deck so they tossed a whole bunch of life preservers down into the hold. I held onto one but didn’t think anything about it.”
It was about 4:00 P.M. on October 24, and ten of the POWs were on deck preparing dinner for the POWs in the ship’s holds and had fed about half the POWs. The waves were high since the ship had been through a storm in the Bashi Channel of the South China Sea. Suddenly, bells and sirens sounded warning of submarines. The POWs in the holds chanted for the submarine to sink the ship.
It was 4:50 P.M. when the Japanese on deck ran to the bow of the ship and watched a torpedo pass in front of the ship. They next ran to the stern of the ship and watched a second torpedo passed behind the ship. The ship shook and came to a stop. It had been hit by two torpedoes, amidships, killing some of the POWs. Those still alive began cheering wildly, but it stopped when they realized they were facing death.
Cichy recalled, “When the torpedo hit everybody in the hold hollered ‘Hit her again!’ We wanted to get it over with.”
Lt. Robert S. Overbeck said, “When the torpedoing happened, most of the Americans didn’t care a bit–they were tired and weak and sick.” He also said of the incident, “The third torpedo struck squarely amidships and buckled the vessel but it didn’t break in two. By then the Nips — 300 of them on deck — were scurrying about, scared as hell. The boilers exploded. I don’t think any of us got hurt in the torpedoing or the explosion. Most of the prisoners were American, with a few British. That was about 5:00 P.M. “
A little while later the cheering stopped when the POWs realized they were facing death. Overbeck also commented on the reaction of the POWs in the holds. “For about five seconds there was panic among us, but there were five or six chaplains who prayed fervently and quieted the men.” It is believed the submarine that fired the torpedoes was either the U.S.S. Snook or the U.S.S. Shark.
The guards took their rifles and used them as clubs to drive the POWs on deck into the holds. Once in the holds, the Japanese cut the rope ladders into the holds and put the hatch covers over the holds, but they did not tie the hatch covers down.
Cichy recalled, “The Japs closed the hatches and left the ship in lifeboats. They must have forgotten about the prisoners on deck who had been cooking. When the Japs were off the boat, the cooks opened the hatches and told us to come up. I was just under the deck, but there were a lot of guys down below. One of them escaped by simply walking into the water from a hole in the bulkhead. He was Lt. Robert S. Overbeck, Baltimore.” Cichy also stated, “The Japs had already evacuated ship. They had a destroyer off the side, and they were saving their own.”
The POWs left the holds but made no attempt to abandon ship. On the ship’s deck an American major spoke to the POWs, he said, “Boys, we’re in a helluva a jam – but we’ve been in jams before. Remember just one thing: We’re American soldiers. Let’s play it that way to the very end of the script.” Right after he spoke, a chaplain said to them, “Oh Lord, if it be thy will to take us now, give us the strength to be men.”
Overbeck stated, “We broke into the ship’s stores to get food, cigarettes, and water — mainly water, we were so thirsty. All of us figured we were going to die anyway. The Japs ships, except for the destroyers, had disappeared. All we had were life belts which the Japanese had fortunately thrown down the hold the day before.” The ship slowly sank lower into the water.
Glenn recalled that he was on the port side and walked back to see the damage caused by the torpedo. The deck was peeled back and he could see water inside the hold washing back and forth. When a wave went under the ship the stern would wobble up and down and he heard the steel tearing. Shortly after this, the stern tore off and the rest of the ship began to take on water quickly. When the water was about five or six feet from the deck, Glenn decided it was time to go over the side and swan several hundred feet away.
As the ship went down, there was an eruption of water, air, and debris. As he watched, he saw men still sitting on the ship’s deck, standing on the deck, and holding onto the ship’s railings.
Most of the POWs were still on deck even after it became apparent that the ship was sinking. Some POWs attempted to escape by putting on lifebelts, clinging to hatch covers, rafts, and other flotsam and jetsam. When they reached other Japanese ships, the Japanese pushed them away with poles. Of this, he said, “They weren’t picking up Americans. A lot of the prisoners were swimming for the destroyer, but the Japanese were pushing them back into the water.”
Witnessing the POWs who had swam to the Japanese destroyers being pushed away, he remained on the ship’s deck. It was when the ship was six feet above the water that he went over the side while many were still on deck, he recalled, ” I could see people still on the ship when it went down. I could see people against the skyline, just standing there.”
In the water, he watched as the ship went under. What saved his life was that he found wooden planks and held onto them. “I kept getting bumped by guys wearing life jackets. Nobody wanted to share my planks. I didn’t ask them.” He heard men shouting while other men were using what he called “GI whistles” to contact each other. “They were blowing these GI whistles in the night. This weird moaning sound. I can’t describe it.”Not too long after this, he managed to pull himself onto the boards and either passed out or fell asleep. When he next opened his eyes, it was morning.
A Japanese destroyer approached him and a sailor who had been eating an orange threw it into the water near him. Other sailors on deck simply stared at him with their hands resting on their sidearms. “I figured if I made the wrong move they’d start target practice.” The destroyer pulled away and steamed out of sight. It was then that he heard a voice, “Can I come over?” He answered, “Sure.” It was then that he met Philip Brodsky from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. The two men worked to improve their raft and made a pact that they wouldn’t try to kill and eat each other.
They were together four days in the sea before they were picked up by a different Japanese destroyer that took them to Takao, Formosa. On Formosa, they were questioned and assigned to another hell ship.
Five of the POWs found an abandoned lifeboat, but since they had no paddles, they could not maneuver it to help other POWs. Glenn and another POW, Philip Brodsky, shared a raft they made from the boards. They survived on their makeshift raft until they saw a string of life rafts. The men swam over and attempted to stack the rafts on each other to get out of the water. They remained in the rafts for four days until another Japanese convoy picked them up. On the ship, there were two other survivors of the Arisan Maru The ship took them to Formosa. One of the other survivors died there. During his time on Formosa, Glenn was held at Toroku Camp.
On January 14, 1945, Glenn was boarded onto the Melbourne Maru. The ship sailed for Japan arriving at Moji on January 23rd. From there, Glenn was sent to Maribara # 10-B. The POWs in the camp built canals for drainage. When he went back to work, Glenn worked as a stevedore.
Glenn weighed 85 pounds when he was liberated in September 1945. He returned to the United States on the U.S.S. Tryon being carried aboard on a stretcher. The ship sailed and arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on October 17th. It sailed again on October 19 arriving at San Francisco on October 24, 1945, and was carried off the ship and sent to Letterman General Hospital before he was taken by ambulance to Ft. Lewis to Madigan Veterans Hospital.
Glenn was discharged from the army on November 11, 1946. He went to work for ASARCO working with soldiers. He was recalled to active duty during the Korean War and trained troops for the Korean War. After he was discharged, he and Ester moved to Tacoma, Washington, and became the parents of two daughters. Glenn worked as a television and radio repairman until he retired in 1982.
Glenn S. Oliver passed away in Tacoma, Washington, on November 25, 2012, and was buried at Mountain View Memorial Park in Lakewood, Washington.