Sgt. Philip R. Parish was born on May 2, 1909, in Ontario, Wisconsin, and was the son of Dora and Hollis Parish. He attended Billings Creek Elementary School, Ontario, Wisconsin, which was very close to the farm he grew up on as a child. He also attended Ontario High School and after high school went to barber school in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In 1934, he traveled to Janesville to start working as a barber and resided at 1318 South Jackson Street with relatives. Being a barber, Phil needed to supplement his income, which led to him joining the 32nd Tank Company of the Wisconsin National Guard in 1938. Another reason that he may have joined the tank company is that two members of the company were his cousins, Fay, and Ray Baldon. The company was federalized on November 25, as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion, and the soldiers received physicals the same day. Some men who were federalized in the morning were civilians by the afternoon. The company was also ordered to report to Fort Knox, Kentucky.
A three-man advance team was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, and was followed by a detachment of 23 soldiers – that included Phil – that left the armory at 7:00 A.M. on November 27 in nine trucks. It is known that the roads were ice-covered so the trip was slow and the conditions resulted in one truck hitting a civilian’s car. No other information is available about the incident. The roads improved the further south the convoy traveled. The soldiers spent the night at an armory in Danville, Illinois, before heading south to Ft. Knox and arriving there sometime later the next day.
The next day, November 28, between 4:00 and 5:00 P.M., the main detachment of soldiers that marched from the armory to the Milwaukee Road train station in Janesville where they boarded special cars that had been added to the Marquette to Chicago train. One was a flatcar with the company’s two tanks on it. At some point, the train cars were uncoupled from the train and switched onto the Chicago & Northwestern line that went into Maywood, Illinois. There, the members of B Company boarded the train and their equipment – including their two tanks – was loaded onto the train. In Chicago, the train cars were switched onto the Illinois Central Railroad and taken to Ft. Knox arriving around 8:00 A.M. When they arrived, trucks were waiting at the station to take them to the fort. Their first housing were six men tents since their barracks were not finished. The battalion had a total of eight tanks that the soldiers were ordered not to abuse.
After arriving, they spent the first six weeks in primary training. During week 1, the soldiers did infantry drilling; week 2, manual arms and marching to music; week 3, machine gun training; week 4, was pistol usage; week 5, M1 rifle firing; week 6, was training with gas masks, gas attacks, pitching tents, and hikes; weeks 7, 8, and 9 were spent learning the weapons, firing each one, learning the parts of the weapons and their functions, field stripping and caring for weapons, and the cleaning of weapons.
It is known that he was one of the soldiers from Janesville who went home for Christmas. The soldiers left Ft. Knox at about 1:00 P.M. on Saturday, December 21 – by chartered bus – and arrived in Janesville at about 3:00 A.M. on Sunday, December 22. They remained in Janesville until the afternoon of Christmas Day when they boarded the chartered bus for the return trip to Ft. Knox at 1:00 P.M.
1st Sgt. Dale Lawton – on December 26 – was given the job of picking men to be transferred from the company to the soon to be formed Hq Company. Men were picked for the company because they had special training. Many of these men received promotions and because of their rating received higher pay.
A Company moved into its barracks in December 1941. The men assigned to the Hq Company still lived with the A Company since their barracks were unfinished. 25 men lived on each floor of the barracks. The bunks were set up along the walls and alternated so that the head of one bunk was next to the foot of another bunk allowing for more bunks to be placed in the least amount of space allowing for 50 men to sleep on each floor. The first sergeant, staff sergeant, and master sergeant had their own rooms. There was also a supply room, an orderly room – where the cooks could sleep during the day – and a clubroom.
The one problem they had was that the barracks had four, two-way speakers in it. One speaker was in the main room of each floor of the barracks, one was in the first sergeant’s office, and one was in the Capt. Walter Write’s office. Since by flipping a switch the speaker became a microphone, the men watched what they said. The men assigned to Hq Company moved into their own barracks by February. The guardsmen were housed away from the regular army troops in the newly built barracks. Newspapers from the time state that the barracks were air-conditioned. Although the barracks were finished, A Company shared D Company’s mess hall until the company’s mess hall opened. The area outside the barracks was described as muddy and dusty most of the time. An attempt was made to improve the situation with the building of walkways and roads around the barracks.
A typical day for the soldiers started at 6:15 with reveille, but most of the soldiers were up before this since they wanted to wash and dress. Breakfast was from 7:00 to 8:00 A.M., followed by calisthenics from 8:00 to 8:30. Afterward, the tankers went to various schools within the company. The classes consisted of .30 and .50 caliber machine guns, pistol, map reading, care of personal equipment, military courtesy, and training in tactics. At 11:30 the soldiers stopped what they were doing and cleaned up for mess which was from noon to 1:00 P.M. Afterwards, they attended the various schools which they had been assigned to on January 13, such as mechanics, tank driving, radio operating. The classes lasted for 13 weeks. At 4:30, the soldiers called it a day and returned to their barracks and put on dress uniforms and at five held retreat and followed by dinner at 5:30. After they ate they stood in line to wash their mess kits since they had no mess hall. At first, A Company’s meals were served in D Company’s mess hall until heir mess hall was finished in December. After dinner, they were off duty and lights were out at 9:00 P.M., but they did not have to turn in until 10:00 when Taps was played.
It was also at this time that all the battalion had 16 operational tanks and the first men from selective service were assigned to the company. On January 10, these men took their first tank ride and all of them had the chance to drive the tanks. They would permanently join the company in March 1941.
During their free time during the week, the men could go to one of the three movie theaters on the outpost. They also sat around and talked. As the weather got warmer, the men tried to play baseball as often as possible in the evenings. At 9:00 P.M., when lights went out, most went to sleep. On weekends, men with passes frequently went to Louisville which was 35 miles north of the fort, while others went to Elizabethtown sixteen miles south of the fort. Those men still on the base used the dayroom to read since it was open until 11:00 P.M. Capt Walter Write, during February, commanded a composite tank company made of men from all the companies of the battalion. The company left Ft. Knox on a problematic move at 9:00 A.M. The company consisted of three motorcycles, two scout cars, sixteen tanks, one ambulance, and supply, fuel, and kitchen trucks. The route was difficult and chosen so that the men could become acquainted with their equipment. They also had to watch out for simulated enemy planes. Bridges were avoided whenever it was possible to ford the water. At noon, the column stopped for a short rest and a lunch that did not materialize. A guide had failed to stay at one of the crossings until the kitchen truck arrived there, so instead of turning into the woods, the truck went straight. After the break, Capt. Write ordered the men back to Ft. Knox without having been fed.
In late March 1941, the entire battalion was moved to new barracks at Wilson Road and Seventh Avenue at Ft. Knox. The barracks had bathing and washing facilities in them and a day room. The new kitchens had larger gas ranges, automatic gas heaters, large pantries, and mess halls. One reason for this move was the men from selective service were permanently joining the battalion.
At 7:00 A.M. on Monday, June 16, the battalion was broken into four detachments for a three-day tactical road march. The most important part of this march was to train the soldiers in loading, unloading, and setting up the battalion’s administrative camps. The battalion traveled with 20 tanks, 20 motorcycles, 7 armored scout cars, 5 jeeps, 12 peeps (later called jeeps), 20 large 2½ ton trucks (these carried the battalion’s garages for vehicle repair), 5, 1½ ton trucks (which were the battalion’s kitchens), and 1 ambulance. The battalion traveled through Bardstown and Springfield before arriving at Harrodsburg at 2:30 P.M. where they set up their bivouac at the fairgrounds. The next morning, they moved to Herrington Lake east of Danville, where the men swam, boated, and fished. The battalion returned to Ft. Knox on Wednesday, June 18 through Lebanon, New Haven, and Hodgenville, Kentucky.
In the late summer of 1941, the tank battalion was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, to take part in maneuvers from September 1 through 30. The entire battalion was loaded onto trucks and sent in a convoy to Louisiana while the tanks and wheeled vehicles were sent by train. When they arrived they lived in tents.
One of the major problems was snake bites. It appeared that every other man was bitten at some point by a snake. The platoon commanders carried a snakebit kit that was used to create a vacuum to suck the poison out of the bite. The bites were the result of the nights cooling down and snakes crawling under the soldiers’ bedrolls for warmth while the soldiers were sleeping on them.
There was one multicolored snake – about eight inches long – that was beautiful to look at, but if it bit a man he was dead. The good thing was that these snakes would not just strike at the man but only struck if the man forced himself on it. When the soldiers woke up in the morning they would carefully pick up their bedrolls to see if there were any snakes under them. To avoid being bitten, men slept on the two and a half-ton trucks or on or in the tanks. Another trick the soldiers learned was to dig a small trench around their tents and lay rope in the trench. The burs on the rope kept the snakes from entering the tents. The snakes were not a problem if the night was warm.
They also had a problem with the wild hogs in the area. In the middle of the night while the men were sleeping in their tents they would suddenly hear hogs squealing. The hogs would run into the tents pushing on them until they took them down and dragged them away.
The food was also not very good since the air was always damp which made it hard to get a fire started. Many of their meals were C ration meals of beans or chili that they choked down. Washing clothes was done when the men had a chance. They did this by finding a creek, looking for alligators, and if there were none, taking a bar of soap and scrubbing whatever they were washing. Clothes were usually washed once a week or once every two weeks.
The tanks held defensive positions and usually were held in reserve by the higher headquarters. For the first time, the tanks were used to counter-attack and in support of infantry and held defensive positions. They usually were held in reserve by the higher headquarters. Some men felt that the tanks were finally being used like they should be used and not as “mobile pillboxes.”
The maneuvers were described by other men as being awakened at 4:30 A.M. and sent to an area to engage an imaginary enemy. After engaging the enemy, the tanks withdrew to another area. The crews had no idea what they were doing most of the time because they were never told anything by the higher-ups. A number of men felt that they just rode around in their tanks a lot.
During their training at Ft. Knox, the tankers were taught that they should never attack an anti-tank gun head-on. One day during the maneuvers, their commanding general threw away the entire battalion doing just that. After sitting out a period of time, the battalion resumed the maneuvers. At some point, the battalion also went from fighting in the Red Army to fighting for the Blue Army.
The major problem for the tanks was the sandy soil. On several occasions, tanks were parked and the crews walked away from them. When they returned, the tanks had sunk into the sandy soil up to their hauls. To get them out, other tanks were brought in and attempted to pull them out. If that didn’t work, the tankers brought a tank wrecker to pull the tank out from Camp Polk.
The one good thing that came out of the maneuvers was that the tank crews learned how to move at night. At Ft. Knox this was never done. Without knowing it, the night movements were preparing them for what they would do in the Philippines since most of the battalion’s movements there were made at night. The drivers learned how to drive at night and to take instructions from their tank commanders who had a better view from the turret.
At night a number of motorcycle riders from other tank units were killed because they were riding their bikes without headlights on which meant they could not see obstacles in front of their bikes. When they hit something they fell to the ground and the tanks following them went over them. This happened several times before the motorcycle riders were ordered to turn on their headlights.
After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana. On the side of a hill, the soldiers learned they were being sent overseas. Men who were married or 29 years old, or older, were allowed to resign from federal service. Most of the remaining soldiers were given leaves home to say their goodbyes. When they returned to Camp Polk, they found themselves, once again, living in tents. During their time there, it rained a great deal of the time and the men always seemed to be wet. Men went over a week without taking a shower.
The reason for this move was because of an event that happened during the summer of 1941. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf, on a routine patrol, when one of the pilots noticed something odd in the water. He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water. and saw another flagged buoy in the distance. The squadron flew toward it and 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, with a large radio transmitter, hundreds of miles away. The squadron continued its designated patrol and flew south to Mariveles before returning to Clark Field. By the time the planes landed and reported what had been seen, it was too late to do anything that evening.
The next morning, another squadron was sent to the area but the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat that was seen making its way toward shore. Since communication between and Air Corps and Navy was poor, the boat was not intercepted. It was on August 15th that the decision was made to send the battalion to the Philippines.
Phil was not married and decided not to fill out the papers that he had received to be released from federal service since he was old enough to be released. When the messenger came for the papers, Phil returned them to the commanding officer unsigned. With this decision made, Phil was given a pass home to tie up any loose ends he needed to finish and say his “goodbyes” to his family and friends.
Phil went to Milwaukee during his furlough and made a marriage proposal, and Dorothy, the girl he proposed to accepted the proposal. Phil now wanted to be released from federal service and tried to do this when he returned to Camp Polk. Unfortunately, it was too late.
The company went west by train. One train carried the tankers while a second train following the first carried the company’s tanks. At the end of the train were a freight car and a passenger car that some of the tankers rode. When they arrived at San Francisco, California, where they were ferried, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. As the ferry passed Alcatraz Island, Phil thought that he and the other soldiers of the battalion were being held prisoners on Angel Island just like the inmates in the prison. In his opinion, they were living on the island so that they could not go “over the hill.” Those members of the battalion who were found to have treatable medical conditions remained behind 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. The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2, and had a two-day layover. The soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
When his duties were completed, Phil went ashore with Pvt. Jack Bruce. On the island, Phil sensed that the Hawaiians knew that war was coming. All around were posters calling for volunteers to join the fire brigade or civil defense. The posters also told the citizens to watch for saboteurs.
The last night before the convoy sailed for Guam, Phil and Jack stopped for a piece of cake. Since neither man was very hungry, they could not eat all of it. For years afterward, Phil would remember the cake and how he left it unfinished.
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 U.S.A.T. President Calvin Coolidge. On Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they woke up the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11, since the ships had crossed the International Date Line during the night. It was during this part of the voyage, 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 took off in the direction of the smoke, which turned out to be from a ship from a friendly country.
The next day, Sunday, November 16, they arrived at Guam, where the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing the next day for Manila. At one point, the ships passed an island at night. While they passed the island, they did so in total blackout. This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm’s way.
The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning. One thing that was different about their arrival was that instead of a band and a welcoming committee waiting at the pier to tell them to enjoy their stay in the Philippines and see as much of the island as they could, a party came aboard the ship – carrying guns – and told the soldiers, “Draw your firearms immediately; we’re under alert. We expect a war with Japan at any moment. Your destination is Fort Stotsenburg, Clark Field.”
At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward P. King, who welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed. He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to live in tents. The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived. He made sure that they had dinner – which consisted of stew thrown into their mess kits – before he left to have his own dinner.
The members of the battalion pitched the ragged World War I tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg. The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent. There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of the rows of tents.
The area was near the end of a runway used by B-17s for takeoffs. The planes flew over the tents at about 100 feet blowing dirt everywhere and the noise from the engines as they flew over was unbelievable. At night, they heard the sounds of planes flying over the airfield which turned out to be Japanese reconnaissance planes. In addition, the khaki uniforms they had been issued also turned out to be a heavy material which made them uncomfortable to wear in the tropical heat.
The day started at 5:15 with reveille and anyone who washed near a faucet with running water was considered lucky. At 6:00 A.M. they ate breakfast followed by work – on their on the tanks and other equipment – from 7:00 A.M. to 11:30 A.M. Lunch was from 11:30 A.M. to 1:30 P.M. when the soldiers returned to work until 2:30 P.M. The shorter afternoon work period was based on the belief that it was too hot to work in the climate. The term “recreation in the motor pool,” a term they borrowed from the 194th Tank Battalion, meant they actually worked until 4:30 in the afternoon.
For recreation, the soldiers spent their free time bowling or going to the movies on the base. They also played horseshoes, softball, badminton, or threw footballs around during their free time. On Wednesday afternoons, they went swimming. Men were given the opportunity to be allowed to go to Manila in small groups.
At Ft. Stotsenburg, the soldiers were expected to wear their dress uniforms. Since working on the tanks was a dirty job, the battalion members wore coveralls to do the work on the tanks. The 192nd followed the example of the 194th Tank Battalion and wore coveralls in their barracks area to do work on their tanks, but if the soldiers left the battalion’s area, they wore dress uniforms including going to the PX.
On December 1st, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. From this time on, two tank crew members, or half-track crew members, remained with each vehicle at all times and received their meals from food trucks.
On the morning of December 8, the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was heard over the radio, and the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of the airfield. Phil said, “The tanks .37 millimeter guns were supposed to be used as anti-aircraft guns. For whatever good that would have been. The joker was the men had never fired the guns. We took our training in the older models that only had machine guns. We’d never fired a 37 mm shell.”
At about 12:45 in the afternoon, two waves of bombers approached the airfield. Phil was in the mess tent awaiting his turn to wash his mess kit. Someone in line said, “Are those our planes?” Phil’ responded by saying, “If they’re not, we’ll soon know about it.” It was only after the first bombs began to explode that they realized their mistake.
Phil threw down his mess kit and grabbed his pistol belt and helmet. He dove into a ditch for protection. The bombs hit the hangars and barracks. Shrapnel was flying everywhere without foxholes for the men many had no place to hide. After the bombers, the Zeros came next. They strafed and destroyed the American planes on the runways.
Remembering the attack, Phil said, “We were lucky. The bombs managed to somehow fall between the tanks right down the line.”
Phil would later say of the attack, “We weren’t too surprised by the attack. When we were in Honolulu on the way over, the people there knew it was coming.”
When the initial attack was over, Phil watched as the wounded were taken in open trucks to the hospital. Arms and legs hung dangling from the sides of the truck over the sideboards. It seemed to him that the trucks carried “load after load” of wounded men. When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building. Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
That night, the tankers slept under their tanks since it was safer than sleeping in their tents. They had no idea that they had slept their last night in a bed for the next three and one-half years.
The next day, Phil walked around Clark Field to look at the damage. In his opinion, there were hundreds of dead. Some were pilots who had been caught asleep, because they had flown night missions, in their tents during the first attack. Others were pilots who had been killed attempting to get to their planes.
After the attack, on December 12, the company was sent to the Barrio of Dau so it would be close to a highway and railroad protecting them from sabotage. On December 23 and 24, the company was in the area of Urdaneta, where the tankers lost the company commander, Capt. Walter Write. After he was buried, the tankers made an end run to get south of Agno River after the main bridge had been destroyed. As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening but successfully crossed the river in the Bayambang Province.
On December 25, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks were asked to hold the position for six hours; they held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27.
On a road east of Zaragoza, on December 30, the company was bivouacked for the night and posted sentries. The sentries heard a noise on the road and woke the other tankers who grabbed Tommy-guns and manned the tanks’ machine guns. As they watched, a Japanese bicycle battalion rode into their bivouac. When the last bicycle passed the tanks, the tankers opened fire on them. When they stopped firing, they had completely wiped out the bicycle battalion. To leave the area, the tankers drove their tanks over the bodies.
At Gumain River, the night of December 31 to the morning of January 1, the tank companies formed a defensive line along the south bank of the river. When the Japanese attacked the position at night, they were easy to see since they were wearing white t-shirts. The Japanese were taking heavy casualties, so they attempted to use smoke to cover their advance, but the wind blew the smoke into the Japanese. When the Japanese broke off the attack, they had suffered fifty percent casualties.
At Guagua, A Company, with units from the 11th Division, Philippine Army, attempted to make a counterattack against the Japanese. Somehow, the tanks were mistaken, by the Filipinos to be Japanese. The 11th Division accurately used mortars on them. The result was the loss of three tanks.
One day, Phil had to drive to the supply depot to pick up gas and ammunition. On one of these trips, Phil and Pvt. Ralph Madison were attacked by Japanese fighters. The two men ran from the truck into someone’s backyard where there was a bomb shelter. When the attack was over, the two soldiers returned to the truck and drove to the supply depot. When they reached the depot, they discovered the Japanese had destroyed it during the attack.
Phil recalled that in January 1942, their food rations were cut in half. It was not too long after this was done that malaria, dysentery, and dengue fever began hitting the soldiers. On January 1, the tanks of the 194th were holding the Calumpit Bridge allowing the Southern Luzon Forces to cross the bridge toward Bataan. General Wainwright was attempting to hold the main Japanese force coming down Route 5 to prevent the troops from being cut off. General MacArthur’s chief of staff gave conflicting orders involving whose command the defenders were under which caused confusion. Gen. Wainwright was not aware these orders had been given.
Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River. Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted. From January 2 to 4, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
A Company was sent, in support of the 194th, to an area east of Pampanga, where they lost a tank platoon commander, 2nd Lt. William Read. The company was returned to the command of the 192nd on January 8, 1942.
On January 28, the tank battalions 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.
It seemed to Phil that Japanese snipers were everywhere. They would infiltrate the Filipino-American lines at night and tie themselves to tree branches with heavy foliage. They would shoot at the Filipino and American troops from these positions. Phil witnessed T/5 Wesley Elmer kill a sniper with his Tommy-gun. As Elmer shot at the tree, he moved the gun in an upward motion. His bullets cut the rope that held the sniper to the branch causing him to fall from the tree.
The company took part in the Battle of the Points on the west coast of Bataan. The Japanese landed troops but ended up trapped. One was the Lapay-Longoskawayan points from January 23 to 29, the Quinawan-Aglaloma points from January 22 to February 8, and the Sililam-Anyasan points from January 27 to February 13. The defenders successfully eliminated the points by driving their tanks along the Japanese defensive line and firing their machine guns. What made this job so hard was that they were had dug “spider holes” among the roots of the trees and the tankers could not get a good shot. The 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts followed the tanks eliminating any resistance and driving the Japanese Marines over the edge of the cliffs where they hid in caves. The tanks fired into the caves killing or forcing them out of them into the sea.
The one duty that Phil really hated was guard duty at night. He would walk a jungle trail in the dark near Algoloma Point. If he heard the Japanese, he was supposed to fire two shots into the air. One of his greatest fears was being shot by an unseen Japanese sniper.
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, 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.
Companies A and C were ordered to the west coast of Bataan while B Company – which was held in reserve – and 17th Ordnance held the southern shore of Bataan. During the night, they were kept busy with repeated threats both on and offshore. 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.
The tank companies also took part in the Battle of the Pockets in February to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line after a Japanese offensive was stopped and pushed back to the original line of defense. 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. Doing this was so stressful that each tank company was rotated out and replaced by one that was being held in reserve.
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 tankers slept upwind of their tanks so they wouldn’t smell the rotting flesh in the tracks.
While the tanks were doing this job, the Japanese sent soldiers, with cans of gasoline, against the tanks. These Japanese attempted to jump onto the tanks, pour gasoline into the vents on the back of the tanks, and set the tanks on fire. If the tankers could not machine gun the Japanese before they got to a tank, the other tanks would shoot them as they stood on a tank. The tankers did not like to do this because of what it did to the crew inside the tank. When the bullets hit the tank, its rivets would pop and wound the men inside the tank. Since the stress on the crews was tremendous, the tanks rotated into the pocket one at a time. A tank entered the pocket and the next tank waited for the tank that had been relieved to exit the pocket before it would enter. This was repeated until all the tanks in the pocket were relieved.
The tankers, from A, B, and C Companies, were able to clear the pockets by February 18. But before this was done, one C Company tank which had gone beyond the American perimeter was disabled and the tank just sat there. When the sun came up the next day, the tank was still sitting there. During the night, its crew was buried alive, inside the tank, by the Japanese. When the Japanese had been wiped out, the tank was turned upside down to remove the dirt and recover the bodies of the crew. The tank was put back into use. It was for their performance during this battle that the 192nd Tank Battalion would receive one of its Distinguished Unit Citations.
Since Phil and the other soldiers were hungry, they began to eat everything they could get their hands on to eat. The Carabao were tough but if they were cooked long enough they could be eaten. They also began to eat horse meat provided by the 26th U.S. Cavalry. To make things worse, the soldiers’ rations were cut in half again on March 1, 1942. This meant that they only ate two meals a day. One effect that this had on Phil was that he could no longer hop onto his truck. He had to find something to step onto so that he could climb up into the truck.
The Japanese also were dropping surrender leaflets with a scantily clad blond on them. They would have been more successful at getting the Americans to surrender if the picture had been hamburger since the men were so hungry that they most likely would have surrendered for a good meal. The amount of gasoline in March was reduced to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except the tanks. This would later be dropped to ten gallons a day. Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that a platoon of tanks be sent to Corregidor, but Wainwright declined.
The last bivouac area that Phil was in was about twelve kilometers north of Marivales and looked out on the China Sea. Phil and the other tankers knew that there was no help on the way. On a half-track’s radio, Phil had listened to Secretary of War Harry R. Stimson. When asked about the Philippines, he said, “There are times when men must die.” The soldiers cursed in response because they knew that the Philippines had already been lost.
The Japanese launched an all-out attack, on April 3, 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. The Japanese broke through the east side of the main defensive line on Bataan on April 7. C Company was pulled out of its position along the west side of the line and ordered to reinforce the eastern part 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. The tanks became a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while hidden in the jungle. and could not fight back. The situation was so bad that other troops avoided being near the tanks, and the 26th Cavalry turned down a tank company’s offer of assistance in a counter-attack.
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. Companies B and D, 192nd, and A Company, 194th, were preparing for a suicide attack against the Japanese in an attempt to stop the advance. 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. Phil Parish, a truck driver for A Company 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 midnight Companies B and D, and A Company, 194th, received an order from Gen. Weaver to stand down.
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 and the white flag was bedding from A Company.) Shortly after daylight Collier and Hunt returned with word of the appointment. It was at about 6:45 A.M. that tank battalion commanders received the order “crash.” 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.
As Gen. King left to negotiate the surrender, he went through the area held by B Company and spoke to the men. He said to them, “I’m going to get us the best deal I can.” He also said, “When you get home, don’t ever let anyone say to you, you surrendered. I was the one who surrendered.” Gen. King with his two aides, Maj. Wade R. 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 not 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.
When Phil learned of the surrender, he realized it was the same date that his mother had died on in 1936. Despite the surrender, the Japanese continued to attack even after the surrender was official so that they could try to claim that it was a total victory.
Phil took a shower under a waterfall. A short time later, he saw a Japanese guard climb out of a ravine and ordered the Prisoners of War to Mariveles. With the other tankers, he was loaded onto a truck and driven to Mariveles where they were searched.
At Mariveles, Phil lost his barber tools. From there, the soldiers were then sent to an unfinished airfield and waited there. He and the other prisoners were hungry, thirsty, sweaty, dirty, and tired. It wasn’t long before Phil knew two words in Japanese. They were “Meza” or “water” and “Aragoto” or “Thank you.”
The Japanese funneled the POWs onto the road and escorted them with gun-toting guards. When Phil realized that they were going to walk, he got rid of everything he did not need. In his opinion, “the Death March” was an inaccurate name because it was more like a “trudge” than a march. Phil used the kilometer markers to get through the march. When he reached one, he set a goal to make it to the next marker. In his opinion, the column of captured soldiers was ten to twelve miles long, with guards a quarter of a mile apart.
It was five days after the surrender that Phil and his group of POWs received their first food. It was a small rice ball handed to them from a bench in the middle of the road. Inside the ball, was a small piece of dried fish.
The guards were assigned to march a certain distance so they often made the POWs march at a faster pace so they could complete their part of the march. Those men who were sick had a hard time keeping up and if they fell out were bayoneted or shot. When the distance was covered, the column was stopped and allowed to rest and the guards were replaced.
The first time the column stopped was near an artesian well by Manila Bay. Not knowing any better, Phil left the column and went to the well, which was 400 to 500 feet from the road, and refilled his canteen. On his way back, he stopped at a Filipino shack bought half a sack of rice. He slipped back into the column which had just started moving again.
A little later, an American soldier broke from the column toward another artesian well. Without hesitation, the guard shot the man before he reached the well. It was at this moment that Phil realized that he had been extremely lucky.
Phil recalled that he always saved a final swallow of water in his canteen. “I would go along with that one swallow of water just thinking about it. I would go a mile and then get to a water hole. Then I dumped the swallow and refilled the canteen. That was a psychological thing; it closed the distance for me.”
When the prisoners reached Cabcaban Airfield, they saw that the Japanese had set up guns and were firing on Corregidor. It was about this time that the American guns on Corregidor began to pinpoint the location of the Japanese guns and shells were landing on the road that the POWs were marching on. 1st Lt. Kenneth Bloomfield, A Company, ordered the men to double-time it across the area in an attempt to prevent casualties.
As Phil ran, he watched the Japanese gun crews work their guns. There were four or five men working each gun. Suddenly, Phil saw a flash and heard an explosion. When the smoke cleared a Japanese gun and its crew was gone.
The only man to die during this incident was Lt. Bloomfield who had given them the order to double-time it across the road. After he had made it to safety, he simply dropped to the ground. Phil guessed that he had died from either heart failure or heat stroke. The POWs were allowed to bury him alongside the road.
Not too long after this event, the POWs were given a rest and were motioned off the road into an open field. During this rest, they were searched by the guards. The guards took what little they had. A Japanese officer recognized one American as a college classmate. He said to him, ” Hey Joe, what are you doing over here?” The GI said he was in the Army-Air Corps. The Japanese officer responded with, ” You didn’t have any airplanes.”
At Lamao, a Filipino who had been dead for a couple of days lay in the pen where the POWs were held. The body was bloated and smelled. 300 to 400 prisoners were in the pen with the body. To make things even worse, the ground was covered with human waste from the POWs who had been held there before them. Since many of the POWs now being held in the pen had dysentery, they added to the mess.
The POWs were next herded into a corrugated metal warehouse, with a concrete floor, for the night. Suddenly, Phil heard two rifle shots. He never knew what happened but believed that it was a warning to the prisoners to quiet down. The floor of the building was covered with human waste and the men slept in it.
The next morning Phil and the other prisoners exited the building. They watched as a Japanese guard beat a Filipino with the butt of his rifle. The beating continued until the Filipino fell face down to the ground. Then the guard took his bayonet from the sheath and jabbed it into the man. The guard took out a piece of cloth and wiped the blade clean. He then returned it to the sheath. Phil and the other men believed that the Filipino had been caught giving aid to the Americans.
Not too far from Lamao, there was evidence that heavy fighting had taken place there. There were the bloated bodies of many Filipinos lying on the ground. One headless body lay in the middle of the road. A few yards away lay the head. It looked like it had been chopped off the body.
During this time, Phil was able to buy a can of sardines. Phil, Pvt. Jim Manogue and another member of A Company combined their rice and anything else they had and had a good snack before they continued on the march.
The POWs marched into the night. During this time they marched through a barrio. Since it was dark, they could not see much further than the sides of the road. But, they could see and smell smoke. From the smell, they could tell that bodies were being burnt. Bodies that had been there for a few days. The smell from the smoke and stench from the bodies made the POWs sick.
As the march continued, Phil recalled it got hotter. What made things worse was that there was no rain to relieve the men from the heat. Phil found a paper on the road. The paper said that the temperature had dropped to 109 degrees from 116 degrees. To Phil, it seemed that the hotter it got the harder it became to get water. It also became harder for Phil to resist drinking from his canteen. He had learned a trick from a World War I veteran to always keep a little water in his canteen. Psychologically, it would keep a person going longer knowing that the water was there.
When they were allowed to get a drink, Phil would take a drink and then fill his canteen with water. One time he was allowed to fill his canteen. After he had filled his canteen, he saw the body of a dead Filipino floating in the water. Phil was lucky enough to have a tube of iodine on him from his first aid kit. He squeezed the iodine into the canteen which made the water taste bitter but made it safer.
Somewhere between Lamao and San Fernando, the POWs were moving slower than the guards allowed. Clouds were drifting slowly by when he heard someone say, “Send it down J. C.” Suddenly, a light shower began to fall on the POWs.
When the POWs were given a rest, they were held in a field with very little shade. Those who had a place in the shade did not get up. A young lieutenant got up from his place and Phil took it. When the lieutenant came back, he told Phil that it was his place. Phil looked at the lieutenant and said that he hadn’t seen the man’s name on it. Since there was no point to continue the argument, the lieutenant moved on. In retrospect, Phil felt that this incident demonstrated that there was little respect for rank left among the Americans.
As the Americans sat waiting, a local vendor made his way among them. The man offered to sell Phil a sugar cake for five pesos. As Phil was about to pay for it, two officers rushed up and offered the man twenty pesos for the cake. The vendor gave it to them. Phil asked the man if he had another sugar cake. The man did and said it would cost twenty pesos. Phil had learned his first lesson about supply and demand.
It took Phil eleven days to reach San Fernando. When he did, he and the other prisoners sat in a vacant lot. The Filipino doctors and nurses from the town offered to provide first aid to the POWs, but the guards would not allow them to do this.
The POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars so tightly that they could only stand. Those who died remained standing since they could not fall to the floors. They rode in these boxcars until they reached Capas, where they left the cars and walked the last miles to Camp O’Donnell which was an unfinished Filipino training base which the Japanese pressed the camp into use as a POW camp on April 1, 1942.
When they arrived at the camp, the Japanese confiscated any extra clothing that the POWs had and refused to return it to them. They searched the POWs and if a man was found to have anything Japanese on them, they were taken to the guardhouse. Over the next several days, gunshots were heard to the southeast of the camp. These POWs had been executed for looting.
There was only one water faucet in the camp, and the prisoners stood in line from two to eight hours waiting for a drink. The Japanese guards at the faucet would turn it off for no reason and the next man in line would stand as long as four hours waiting for it to be turned on again. This situation improved when a second faucet was added.
There was only one water faucet in the camp, and the prisoners stood in line from two to eight hours waiting for a drink. The Japanese guards at the faucet would turn it off for no reason and the next man in line would stand as long as four hours waiting for it to be turned on again, but the Japanese never had a shortage of water. This situation improved when a second faucet was added.
There was no water for washing clothes, so the POWs would throw out their clothing when it had been soiled. In addition, water for cooking had to be carried three miles from a river to the camp, and mess kits could not be washed. The slit trenches in the camp were inadequate and were soon overflowing since most of the POWs had dysentery. The result was that flies were everywhere in the camp including the POW kitchens and in the food.
The POWs received three meals a day. For breakfast, they were fed a half cup of soupy rice and occasionally some type of coffee. Lunch each day was a half of a mess kit of steamed rice and a half of cup of sweet potato soup. They received the same meal for dinner. All meals were served outside regardless of the weather.
There was not enough housing for the POWs and most slept under buildings or on the ground. The barracks were designed for 40 men but those did sleep in one slept in a barracks it was with as many 80 to 120 men.
The camp hospital had no soap, water, or disinfectant. When the ranking American doctor at the camp wrote a letter to the camp commandant, Capt. Yohio Tsuneyoshi, asking for medical supplies, he was told never to write another letter. When the Archbishop of Manila sent a truckload of medical supplies to the camp, Tsuneyoshi refused to allow the truck into the camp. When the Philippine Red Cross sent medical supplies to the camp the Japanese took 95% of the supplies for their own use. A second truck with medical supplies sent by the Red Cross to the camp was turned away at the gate.
The POWs in the camp hospital lay on the floor elbow to elbow and only one medic – of the six medics assigned to care for 50 sick POWs in the hospital – was healthy enough to care for them. The floor was covered in human feces since many of the sick had dysentery and their clothes were covered in it. Many of the sick had been stripped naked. To clean the floor the medical staff came up with homemade cleaner. When a representative of the Philippine Red Cross stated they could supply a 150-bed hospital for the camp, he was slapped in the face by a Japanese lieutenant.
Each morning, the bodies of the dead were found all over the camp and were carried to the hospital and placed underneath it. The bodies lay there for two or three days before they were buried in the camp cemetery by other POWs who were suffering from dysentery and/or malaria. In an attempt to stop the spread of disease, the dead were moved to one area, and the ground was scraped and lime was spread over it. The bodies of the dead were placed in the cleaned area, and the area they had lain was scraped and lime was spread over it.
Work details were sent out on a daily basis. Each day, the American doctors gave a list of names to the Japanese of the POWs who were healthier enough to work. If the quota of POWs needed to work could not be met, the Japanese put those POWs who were sick but could walk, to work. The less sick from the hospital were required to dig latrines and were given a canteen of water that was expected to last three days. The sick who went out on work details came back to the camp and died. The death rate among the POWs reached 50 men dying a day.
When Phil arrived at the camp, his first impression was that it was a large, bleak, fenced-in area. Phil and the others had to listen to the commanding officer lecture them from the bed of a truck. They then were told which nipa huts would be their homes.
Life in the camp was a nightmare since men were dying at a rate of at least fifty deaths a day. Phil remembered that one member of A Company was so sick that he no longer attempted to move away from the slit trench that served as a toilet for the prisoners. The soldier slept near the trench and died shortly afterward.
One of the worst things witnessed while at Camp O’Donnell was when the Japanese hung two Filipinos by their wrists just a few inches off the ground. Both Filipinos lived like this for a few days before they died. It was after this event that Phil decided that he needed to get out of Camp O’Donnell.
A work detail of POWs was being organized to go to Calauan and was under the command of Lt. Col. Ted Wickord who had been the commanding officer of the 192nd. When they arrived, half of the men were assigned to a detail to rebuild bridges, while the other half were sent to work in a sawmill. Phil was assigned to the group that was to rebuild the bridges. On this detail with Phil were Dale Lawton, Ken Schoeberle, Forrest Teal, Jim Schultz, Lewis Wallisch, and John Wood.
While at Calauan, the POWs got word that one of the POWs on the sawmill detail had escaped. The word was that ten men from the detail would be executed. Col. Wickord was sent to the sawmill to witness the execution and warn his men about the consequences. When he returned, he informed his men that the commanding officer had been told to select ten men for execution. The officer had a terrible time doing this and finally chose the five men who slept to the escapee’s right and the five men who slept to his left. The officer surmised that the night the man had escaped one of them must have heard something and could have prevented it.
The “selected” were made to dig their own graves. One pleaded with the ranking American officer to do something. All he could tell the man was that there was nothing he could do. Another regretted that he would never see Denver again. One of the men was the brother of another man on the detail. Even though other POWs volunteered to take his place, the Japanese would not allow it. The men were offered blindfolds but refused them. They were then shot. After falling into their graves, the Japanese shot them again.
The townspeople of Calauan made a serious attempt to bring food and medical treatment to the prisoners on the bridge building detail. A doctor and nurse went daily to where the POWs were working and provided the necessary medical treatment. On May 15, 1942, the Filipinos began to collect a large amount of food. When the Filipinos had enough food, they held a special meal for the POWs at the local Catholic church on June 1st. The Catholic priest walked among the prisoners dropping cigarettes on the floor for them. To signal them about what he was doing, the priest looked down to the ground. Phil picked up a pack of cigarettes.
When the Filipinos heard that the detail would be leaving, they again held a feast for the men. To get the Japanese to allow the Americans to attend, the Filipinos convinced the Japanese that it was to thank them for the new bridge. Since the guards wanted to attend, the POWs had to go along. The Filipinos fed the Japanese first and saved the best food for the Americans.
It was while he was on the bridge detail that his father received two messages from the War Department.
Dear Mr. H. Parish:
According to War Department records, you have been designated as the emergency addressee of Sergeant Philip R. Parish, 20,645,209, 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
Next Phil’s detail was sent to Batangas. There the POWs received clothing from nine Irish Catholic nuns who had been released from an internment camp. The nuns invited the prisoners to a meal, but only twelve could attend. Lt. Col. Wickord selected six Catholic and six Protestant POWs to attend the meal. He selected those men who seemed to be in the worse physical condition. Phil was one of those selected.
At some point, Phil became ill and was sent to Cabanatuan. Medical records from the camp show that Phil was admitted to the camp hospital on July 2, 1942. The records do not state why he was admitted or when he was discharged.
The camp hospital consisted of 30 wards that could hold 40 men each, but it was more common for them to have 100 men in them. Each man had approximately an area of 2 feet by 6 feet to lie in. The sickest POWs were put in “Zero Ward,” which was called this because it was missed by the Japanese when they counted barracks. The name soon came to mean the place POWs went to die.
The Japanese put a fence up around the building to protect themselves and would not go into the area. 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.
Upon arriving at Cabanatuan, the first thing Phil and the other POWs saw were the crosses of ten men who had been executed because one had tried to escape. In the camp, the prisoners had started to figure out how to get additional food from the Japanese. When a man died at night, the prisoners would not report his death until after breakfast. It was only after Red Cross packages arrived at the camp that the death rate dropped to seven or eight men a day.
Diphtheria was spreading among the POWs and had become a full-blown pandemic in July. 130 POWs died from the disease before the Japanese issued medicine to the American doctors.
In July, his father received a second 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, Sergeant Philip R. Parish 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.”
On September 17, one POW was recaptured who had escaped from the camp on August 7. He was placed in solitary confinement and during his time there, he was beaten over the head with an iron bar by a Japanese sergeant. The camp commandant, Col. Mori, would parade him around the camp and use the man as an example as he lectured the POWs. The man wore a sign that read, “Example of an Escaped Prisoner.”
Three POWs escaped from the camp on September 12, 1942, and were recaptured on September 21 and brought back to the camp. Their feet were tied together and their hands were crossed behind their backs and tied with ropes. A long rope was tied around their wrists and they were suspended from a rafter with their toes barely touched the ground causing their arms to bear all the weight of their bodies. They were subjected to severe beatings by the Japanese guards while hanging from the rafter. The punishment lasted three days. They were cut from the rafter and they were tied hand and foot and placed in the cooler for 30 days on a diet was rice and water. One of the three POWs was severely beaten by a Japanese lieutenant but later released.
On September 29, the three POWs were executed by the Japanese after being stopped by American security guards while attempting to escape. The American guards were there to prevent escapes so that the other POWs in their ten men group would not be executed. During the event, the noise made the Japanese aware of the situation and they came to the area and beat the three men who had tried to escape. One so badly that his jaw was broken. After two and a half hours, the three were tied to posts by the main gate and their clothes were torn off them. They also were beaten on and off for the next 48 hours. Anyone passing them was expected to urinate on them. After three days they were cut down and thrown into a truck and taken to a clearing in sight of the camp and shot.
In 1943, the rainy season had just started. Phil was assigned to the burial detail. The cemetery was in a swamp area less than a half-mile from the camp. The prisoners were divided into work crews. The first crew would dig the graves. The second crew would carry the dead in shoulder litters to the graves. A chaplain would conduct a service at the grave. Phil and the other prisoners would salute the man as he was lowered into the grave. Since the water table was high, the body would be held down while the POWs covered it with dirt.
In December 1943, the camp commander, Col. Beecher, asked the Japanese camp commander if the POWs could have Christmas off of work. The Japanese commander said, “Okay, but don’t expect it off every year.”
During his time in the camp Phil went out on a work detail, the POWs attempted to do as little work as possible. One day, Phil was jabbed by a Japanese guard with his bayonet for not working hard enough. The prisoners were marched to the work area, and when they returned, they had a couple of hours of daylight to read. One day, Phil found a Life magazine from just before the war. In it were pictures of the U.S. Navy with the caption, “We’ll lick the Japanese in just two weeks.” At this time, Phil had been a prisoner for two years.
Phil recalled that there was a Tom Cat that lived in the camp. Phil had decided that he was going to make a meal out of the cat. The cat seemed to sense this and kept its distance. One day, Phil found the cat’s hide near the prison camp’s fence.
A POW complained that he believed the American officers in charge of the mess were giving out the food in bigger quantities to their friends. He was almost beaten to death by the Japanese because they expected loyalty to officers, regardless of their army.
Phil recalled that harsh treatment was not only reserved for the American prisoners. Once he saw a Japanese soldier made to run double-time tied to the back of a truck. When he collapsed, they stopped the truck. Two other soldiers got out of the truck, picked him up, and threw him into the truck like a bag of rice.
During the time in the camp, he witnessed men killed for no reason. Two POWs, who had tried to escape, were forced to dig their own graves and shot. Two others had their hands tied behind their backs and then tied to the fence by the entrance to the Japanese Headquarters across from the camp. Every Japanese guard that passed would beat the men. The men died two days later. Like the other prisoners, Phil became ill. During his internment at Cabanatuan, he came down with wet beriberi, which made his body swell like a balloon.
Phil also worked at the prison farm. The farm was supposed to grow food for both the POWs and the Japanese. The Americans had learned not to throw anything away. They ate the vines of the plants as greens. Despite this, the prisoners were always hungry. The ranking Ameican officer, Lt. Col. Curtis Beecher, U.S.M.C., convinced the Japanese camp commander to allow the POWs to have gardens. As it turned out the two men had been friends before the war in Singapore.
Another duty Phil performed was to walk the perimeter of the camp. He did this with Sgt. Lewis Wallisch, from HQ Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. Both had been National Guardsmen in Janesville. Their job was to prevent POWs from escaping from the camp. This was done so no other prisoners would be executed by the Japanese.
In March 1944, Phil was sent to Clark Field to build runways. He recalled that it was the POWs’ job to remove small hills with picks and shovels so the runways could be lengthened. On this detail, 300 POWs worked to enlarge the runways and build new ones. They also built revetments for planes with shovels and wheelbarrows. He felt like a Hebrew building a pyramid for the Egyptians.
The only good thing about the detail is that Phil and the other prisoners got sweet corn to eat from the stalks left in the field that was being turned into a runway. The bad thing was that the men worked in temperatures of over 100 degrees and never had a day off. They worked long hours starting at 6:00 A.M. working long hours even during the typhoon season. 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.
He remained on this detail until August of 1944. To keep his sanity, Phil spent hours in the sun drawing up plans for a home and a barbershop. For him, living in a dream world was better than dealing with the reality of the camp.
The rumor also began to fly that the prisoners were going to be moved to Bilibid Prison. The prison was used as a holding station for men being sent to Japan or other countries under Japanese control.
On the morning of August 27, 1944, the POWs had to be up and ready to move by 2:30 in the morning. When they arrived at Bilibid, they were given thorough physical exams. Those considered to be ill, would not be sent to Japan. Phil had learned that his friend Pvt. Jack Bruce was buried at Bilibid and wanted to see Jack Bruce’s grave. But because it was in an area of the camp that was considered “off-limits,” he could only see it from a distance.
The POWs were marched through the streets of Manila to the port area. On the way, Phil spent his last pesos for two small coconuts. He ate them and ended up sick. He and the other prisoners were boarded onto the Noto Maru. This was the last ship to make it safely to Japan without being attacked. Phil had drunk too much water, but he knew that it would not be available on the ship. With 1100 other prisoners, he was forced into the ship’s hold.
Phil ended up near the wall of the ship. As it turned out, this was a good spot because those trying to use the wooden cages that served as latrines did not trample over him. The bad part of being in this location was that when water was sent down, he ran the risk of not getting any.
After boarding the ship, the ship did not move for two hours. During this time all the water, he had drunk evaporated as sweat. All the prisoners were soaked by their own sweat.
The prisoners were also in total darkness. Those attempting to reach the latrine would step on those in the way. They were packed in the hold so tightly that they could not lie down. If they had been able to lie down, they most likely would have been trampled to death.
Phil had canvas from half of a tent and a piece of cord. With the help of another prisoner, he made a small hammock. The two men would take turns sleeping in the hammock in the fetal position. All the prisoners who had similar materials did the same thing.
After two weeks at sea, the Japanese allowed 15 to 20 men out of the hold at one time. While they were on deck, the Japanese would take a fire hose and hose them down. The convoy made its way to Formosa and then continued to Japan.
One night, the prisoners heard and felt an explosion. Everyone shut up immediately. They heard and felt a second explosion. They believed that what they were hearing were depth charges being dropped on an American submarine. The next day the Japanese confirmed this to be true. From this point on, the ships in the convoy zigzagged which added eleven more days to the trip. On September 4, 1944, the Noto Maru docked at Moji, Japan.
After the Japanese disembarked them from the ship, the POWs realized how bad they smelled. Their smell was so bad, that the Japanese civilians held their noses as the POWs passed.
The POWs next were put on a ferry to cross the Bay of Kobe. They then were boarded onto a train. As they boarded, Phil noticed that there was a large number of Japanese civilians who appeared to be maimed. The men then were boarded onto a silver streamliner. It was nice inside, but there was no air conditioning. They were ordered not to touch the curtains and to leave them down. The POWs peaked out the windows and learned why. The Japanese city had suffered a great amount of damage from American bombers.
On the trip, the prisoners received the best meal that they had received in years. When the train arrived in Takaoka, a small coastal city on the edge of Honshu facing the Sea of Japan, they disembarked. From there, the POWs were marched to Tokyo POW Camp 21-D. It was September 6, 1944. This camp was later known as Nagoya #6.
The camp was built for 300 POWs and located near a manganese plant. The barracks in the camp were divided between American and British POWs. This was done to keep order and to prevent problems with camp records.
The 150 British prisoners in the camp had been captured in Hong Kong joined the Americans in early 1945. The biggest problem the two groups of prisoners had with each other was language. Phil concluded that the British were no better or worse than the Americans.
When the Americans got to the camp, it appeared that the barracks had been built in a hurry. There was a small building in the camp for the prisoners who were really disabled and another building, near the main gate, for the guards. In front of the prisoners’ barracks, there was an area for calisthenics. There was also a zigzag trench that was supposedly an air raid shelter. Within the barracks, each prisoner had a sleeping area of four feet covered with a firm matting material. The entire compound was surrounded by an eight-foot wooden fence.
The Japanese commanding officer addressed the prisoners. He had only one arm having lost one fighting the Chinese. He spoke decent English and informed them that the harder they worked, the better they would get along. He also informed them that those who could not work would receive reduced rations.
There were also artesian wells in the camp with 50-degree water. Phil got a large pocketful of water and a bar of soap and washed from head to toe. He then raised the pocket of water above his head and dumped it on himself. It was the coldest bath he ever had and also the most needed. He slept well that night.
The camp was located on the property of the Nomachi Smelting Company. About half the POWs worked at Hokkai Denka, Fushiki on three different details. Most of the Americans worked at a smelter owned by the Hokkai Denka Company, others worked at a second magnesium smelter owned by a different company, while still others worked in a quarry on the third detail.
The POWs worked two twelve-hour shifts. One was a day shift and the other a night shift. Every two weeks the prisoners would change shifts. When this happened there was an eighteen-hour-long swing shift. Phil was assigned to a sixteen man crew that shoveled mixed ore into the furnaces. Since the ore was heavy and the heat tremendous, the POWs worked thirty minutes on and thirty minutes off. From September 8, 1944, until September 1, 1945, the POWs were forced to work without a day off.
The prisoner rations were better at this camp than at the other camps Phil had been held in before this camp. Although it was mostly rice, there was also barley and soybean when it was in season. They also received daikons which were overgrown white radishes. The prisons sliced it and boiled it into a thin soup. The only meat they received was from three or four cobras that they had discovered inside a giant anthill. Once they even had real Irish potatoes.
While at Nagoya #6, Phil received a letter from Dorothy. It was a year old but a morale booster. In the letter, she told Phil that she was still single. Phil concluded that this meant that she still loved him or that single men were scarce.
The prisoners knew that the war was not going well for Japan. When they were working in the plant, they watched how tightly the food was rationed to the civilians. The foreman gave each worker the same amount of rice. The workers made sure that the kernels that fell on the floor were picked up and put in their baskets. The rats and mice also felt the food shortage. The rats had started to kill the mice for food.
One of the benefits of working in the plant was that there was always enough hot and cold water. The hot water was the result of the furnaces. The prisoners at the plant introduced the Japanese to taking showers. A couple of POWs who worked in the machine shop got permission to make a showerhead. The Japanese liked it so much that they had one made.
While working in the plant, the Americans and the British were not allowed to be mixed in the work details. The POWs worked in the same areas but never together. The British did not tolerate stealing within their ranks. If a British soldier was caught stealing, the punishment was harsh. Those who were victimized formed a ring around the thief. They were allowed to hit the man until he could not stand or his face was a bloody mess. The thief was then carried on a stretcher to the camp hospital.
When an American was caught stealing, the ranking American officer, 1st. Lt. George Sense, knocked him down on his rear. Phil believed that this was the right thing to do because it sent the right message.
The only stealing that was tolerated was stealing from the Japanese. One of Phil’s friends had figured out a way to steal soybeans from the Japanese. Two British prisoners saw him do it and wanted in on the action. Both men were caught. The Japanese then searched all the prisoners’ barracks for soybeans. When they found those of Phil’s friend, the entire barracks were punished by going without firewood for two days.
By November 1944, snow was everywhere. Phil saw the Japanese putting markers about five feet tall on the buildings and on posts along the roads. One morning Phil and the other POWs went to work in a foot of snow. It snowed every few days until there were about four feet of snow on the ground. They had no boots and their shoes were three years old. What amazed Phil was that in the spring there was no flooding. The ground soaked up all the water.
When Christmas 1944 approached, Phil and the other POWs hoped that they would have the day off. They hoped that the Japanese would also allow them to have decorations inside their barracks. There also was a rumor that they would receive Red Cross parcels for Christmas. As it turned out, parcels were delivered and each was shared by two men.
A few days before Christmas, the Japanese brought ornaments into every barracks. The ornaments looked just like the ones back home. As it turned out they were the same. These ornaments were supposed to have been shipped to the United States when the war started.
On Christmas, both the Americans and British POWs sang carols together. They also learned that the Japanese had received the Red Cross parcels months earlier, but had held them back to have something to give the prisoners on Christmas. The prisoners needed the food inside the parcels, but what they needed, even more, was what the packages represented. To them, the parcels meant that they had not been forgotten back home.
While Phil was a prisoner at Nagoya #6, four POWs died. Men would wear out from being overworked and underfed. Then pneumonia took over and the men died in a couple of days. Their bodies would be put in a four by four-foot by two-foot box. It had handles that allowed it to be carried. A Buddhist priest from the village walked ahead of the procession in his white and gold robes. When the remains were returned to the camp, they were in a four-inch by four-inch by twelve-inch box. The man’s name and serial number were on the box. The box was kept by the camp commandant in his office.
Being that the Japanese had a quota of POWs they needed to work on the details each day, those suffering from diarrhea or dysentery were not considered sick. The sick were beaten with shovels to get them to do work that they were too sick to do. They also had their meal rations reduced.
Collective punishment was practiced in the camp and all the POWs were punished when one man broke a rule. On one occasion, for 7 days, the POWs were denied coal, in the middle of winter, because someone had broken a rule . 15 POWs were accused of stealing rice from sacks that they were unloading from a ship. Once they returned to the camp, they were forced to kneel from 1 to 5 hours to get them to confess. Six of the fifteen men confessed and the others were fed and sent to their barracks.
When the camp commandant left the camp at 8:30 that evening, all the POWs were called from the barracks by the second in command and ordered to stand at attention. They were then beaten with pickax handles, rope, that was about 3 inches thick and five feet long, clubs, and farrison belts across the buttocks, face, and legs.
When the POWs passed out, they were either thrown into a large tub of water, with their hands and feet bound, or they had water poured on them until they revived. They once again had to stand at attention as the beating continued for a total of 3 hours. One POW counted that he received 150 blows to his face and 20 on his buttocks.
The Japanese denied the POWs food, clothing, shoes, and other items sent to the camp by the Red Cross. Instead of giving these things to the POWs, the Japanese pilfered the items for their own use. The guards were seen wearing shoes sent by the Red Cross for the POWs. Phil and the other POWs knew of the air raids. The Japanese workers would bring newspapers to the mill. The POWs would sneak the papers into camp and figure out what was happening. As they marched to the mill, the POWs saw teenage boys being trained by army officers. They knew that it was for the expected invasion of Japan. The boys used sticks for rifle practice.
Phil recalled that the attitude of the Japanese civilians at the plant varied. Some of the civilians were very friendly while others were hostile. The son of the owner of the manganese works liked associating with the POWs because he could speak English. On another occasion, Phil was chewed out by a Japanese girl because he had asked for nails to fix his shoes. Still, another Japanese girl saw that Phil’s gloves were worn through and gave him hers. She told him she could always get another pair.
Phil believed that prayer was one of the major reasons he survived. When he got to a point where he thought he would die, he would pray and seemed to get better.
Being that the Japanese had a quota of POWs they needed to work on the details each day, those suffering from diarrhea or dysentery were not considered sick. The sick were beaten with shovels to get them to do work that they were too sick to do. They also had their meal rations reduced.
Sometimes at night, the plant would be blacked out and the POWs were returned to their barracks. Occasionally, they had an air raid drill were the POWs went into the zigzag trench. Phil did not like these drills and felt funny when they had them. Because of this “funny feeling,” Phil would hide in the latrine during the drills. He would squat there until the all-clear was given. It was only after the war that he learned about the Palawan Massacre.
At night, the POWs also began to hear American bombers going over the camp which was a beautiful sound to them. One night Phil could hear the sound of bombs exploding in the distance. The guards entered the barracks and told the POWs to stay away from the windows. Despite this warning, Phil and the other prisoners peaked out. In the distance, they could see flames that had been started by incendiary bombs. The first fires would light up the target, then wave after wave of bombers bombed the area. The interior of the POWs’ barracks was red from the light of the fire burning in the southeastern sky. The sound of one squadron of planes would fade when the sound of another could be heard approaching.
In secret, the POWs wanted the City of Takaoka bombed. This included the manganese mill where they worked. As they went to work, they now saw Japanese civilians pushing carts down the roads to escape the city. The civilians were moving into the caves in the hills for protection against the bombers.
One change that took place was that of the attitude of the guards toward the prisoners. A friend of Phil’s, Jimmy Lujen, hit a supervisor at the mill. Instead of being punished, he was transferred to another job. The POWs believed this was a sign that the civilians knew that the end of the war was near.
One morning the POWs went to work as usual but were given new jobs. They were told that the blast furnaces were going to be dismantled. They also saw the Japanese women in the mill talking and weeping. All Phil and the other POWs knew was something serious had happened.
A few days later, a Japanese officer came to the camp and spoke with the ranking American officer. The Japanese officer told him that the war was over and that the POWs would not be going to work. He also said that the POWs would remain in the camp until the Americans came for them. One immediate change was that the POWs received more food. The guards were still at the gate, but now their role was to protect the prisoners. They also saluted the Americans.
One night, a U. S. Navy pilot appeared in the camp. He contacted the ranking officers and informed them of how and when they would leave. He also told them about the atomic bomb and that none of the prisoners should leave the camp alone. The former prisoners did leave the camp to go to a nearby river. There they swam and laid in the grass as free men.
Food was dropped into the camp by B-29s in 55-gallon drums. The former POWs wanted to go home but were nervous about the future. One morning the Red Cross showed up at the camp gate and inspected the camp. All the men knew that they were fortunate to be alive. They also received the order that they would be leaving Takaoka by train on September 1, 1945.
When the POWs arrived at the train depot, Phil saw hatred in the face of one Japanese man in a military uniform, but most of the Japanese offered them.jpgts. Phil received six handmade salad bowls. The train took the train to Yokohama. There they disembarked the train near the docks and saw GIs who looked healthy and strong.
They were processed and cleaned up on the U.S.S. Rescue, on September 7, and taken to Manila by a destroyer. Phil could not believe how young the sailors looked on the ship. When they arrived in Manila, they were taken to a tent city and processing center. The Americans had a yellow color to their skin. The reason for this is that they were taking atabrine to prevent Malaria. It was at this processing center that Phil and the other freed POWs received new shoes and uniforms. This was the first time in three and a half years that they were given new shoes and uniforms.
Phil for the first time wondered what would be waiting for him at home. By bus, the former POWs were taken back to Manila. There, he boarded the S.S. Simon Bolivar for San Francisco arriving on October 21, 1945. During the trip, Phil began cutting hair again.
Phil returned to Janesville. When he arrived home, in his possession was a prayer book that had belonged to M/Sgt. Robert Havens. After Havens had died in 1942, Phil had carried it with him from camp to camp to return it to Havens’ parents.
After returning to the United States, Phil was discharged on May 22, 1946. Phil married Dorothy, and together they raised five children. He returned to school and earned his high school equivalency diploma. He went to school for cosmetology and spent the rest of his life as a barber in Janesville.
On April 27, 1987, Philip R. Parish passed away at the age of 78. He is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Janesville.