Cpl. Raymond John Peoples Jr. was born in Santa Clara, California, on June 13, 1917. He was the son of Raymond J. Peoples Sr. & Ellen Mills-Peoples. He was the oldest of the couple’s two sons. Sometime during the 1920s, his father died, and his mother married William G. Potter. He attended Gonzales High School, but it is not known if he graduated.
Ray joined the California National Guard, with his best friend, Sidney Lang, and was inducted into the U. S. Army on February 10, 1941, at Salinas Army Air Base. He traveled to Fort Lewis in Washington with his company which was now C Company, 194th Tank Battalion, and trained for six months.
The fort was described as frequently experiencing drizzle. A typical day started at 6:00 A.M. with the first call followed by breakfast at 6:30. During this time the soldiers policed the grounds around their barracks, swept the floors of their barracks, and did other chores. From 7:30 until 11:30 A.M. they drilled which was followed by afternoon mess until 1:00 P.M. From 1:00 to 4:30 they drilled again and at 5:00 retreat took place. At 5:30 they had evening mess after which the soldiers were free.
A canteen was located near their barracks and there was a movie theater on the base. The tank theater was not finished, but when it was, the tankers only had to cross the road from their barracks to reach it. Saturday was a day off and many of the soldiers went rode the bus to Tacoma which was fifteen miles away. Many of the men went to church on Sunday morning, and services for different denominations were held at different times.
As their time at Ft. Lewis went on, men were sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for specific training. Those who were sent there attended schools in tank maintenance, radio operation, and other specific jobs.
On August 15, 1941, at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, the 194th received orders for duty in the Philippine Islands because of an event that happened during the summer. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots, whose plane was at a lower altitude, noticed something odd in the water. He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and a second in the distance. The squadron followed the buoys and found that they lined up, in a straight line for 30 miles to the northwest, in the direction of a Japanese occupied island, hundreds of miles away, which had a large radio transmitter. The squadron resumed its flight plan and flew south to Mariveles before returning to Clark Field. By the time the planes landed, it was too late in the evening 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 194th, minus B Company, was ordered to San Francisco, California, for transport to the Philippine Islands. Arriving, by train, at Ft. Mason in San Francisco, they were taken by 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 found with medical conditions were replaced.
The tankers boarded the S.S. President Calvin Coolidge on September 8 at 3:00 P.M. and sailed at 9:00 P.M. for the Philippine Islands. To get the tanks to fit in the ship’s holds, the turrets had serial numbers spray painted on them and were removed from the tanks. They arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Saturday, September 13 at 7:00 A.M., and most of the soldiers were allowed off the ship to see the island but had to be back on board before the ship sailed at 5:00 P.M.
After leaving Hawaii, the ship took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes. It was at this time that it was joined by the U.S.S. Astoria, a heavy cruiser, that was its escort. During this part of the trip, on several occasions, smoke was seen on the horizon, and the Astoria took off in the direction of the smoke. Each time it was found that the smoke was from a ship belonging to a friendly country.
The Coolidge entered Manila Bay at 7:00 A.M., on September 26th, and reached Manila several hours later. The soldiers disembarked at 3:00 P.M., and were driven on buses to Clark Field. The maintenance section of the battalion and members of 17th Ordnance remained at the dock to unload the battalion’s tanks and reattach the turrets.
The battalion rode buses to Fort Stotsenburg and taken to an area between the fort and Clark Field, where they were housed in tents since the barracks for them had not been completed. They were met by General Edward P. King, commanding officer of the fort who made sure they had what they needed. On November 15, they moved into their barracks.
On December 1, the 194th was ordered to its position at Clark Field. Their job was to protect the northern half of the airfield from paratroopers. The 192nd Tank Battalion, which had arrived in November guarded the southern half. Two crewmen remained with the tanks at all times and received their meals from food trucks.
The morning of December 8, 1941, the battalion was brought up to full strength at the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers. Just hours early, the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. As the tankers guarded the airfield, they watched American planes flying in every direction. At noon the planes landed, to be refueled, and the pilots went to lunch. It was 12:45, and as the tankers watched, a formation of 54 planes approached the airfield from the north. When bombs began exploding on the runways, the tankers knew the planes were Japanese.
When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield. The soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything that could carry the wounded was in use. When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building. Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
The night of the 12th/13th, the battalion was ordered to bivouac south of San Fernando near the Calumpit Bridge. Attempting to move the battalion at night was a nightmare, and they finally arrived at their new bivouac at 6:00 A.M. on December 13th.
It was at this time that C Company was ordered to support forces in southern Luzon. The company proceeded through Manila. Since they had no air cover, most of their movements were at night. As they moved, they noticed lights blinking or flares being shot into the air. They arrived at the Tagaytay Ridge and spent time there attempting to catch 5th columnists.
They remained in the area until December 24, when they moved over the Taal Road to San Tomas and bivouacked near San Paolo and assisted in operations in the Pagbilao-Lucban Area supporting the Philippine Army. One of the most dangerous things the tanks did was cross bridges with a ten-ton weight limit. Each tank weighed 14 tons, so they crossed the bridges one tank at a time. On the 30th, the company supported the withdrawal of the Philippine Army south of San Fernando on Route 3. They rejoined the battalion on December 31.
The tanks withdrew through San Fernando at 2:00 A.M. on January 2nd, and fell back to the Lyac Junction. The two tank battalions were holding a line between Culis and Hermosa. The tanks withdrew from the line the night of the 6th/7th. While doing this, the maintenance section of the battalions repaired abandoned trucks used to haul food and the gasoline caches they found and bring it into Bataan. That night, the 194th crossed the bridge over the Culis Creek, covered by the 192nd, and entered Bataan.
The company, with A Co., 192nd Tank Battalion, withdrew from the Guagua-Perac Line to Remedio where they established a new defensive line on January 5th. That afternoon, C Company, supported by four self-propelled mounts stopped a Japanese advance which kept the road open for withdrawing forces.
The next night, the tanks were holding the line when the Japanese attempted to infiltrate under a bright moon. The tanks opened fire resulting in the Japanese losing half of their troops. In an attempt to cover their advance, the Japanese used smoke which blew back on them. The battle lasted until the Japanese broke off the attack at 3:00 in the morning. After this, there was a two-day lull in the fighting.
A composite tank company was formed from the tank battalions and given the job of protecting the East road north to Hermosa. This was a dangerous job since the tanks were in the range of Japanese artillery. The other tanks were ordered to a bivouac south of the Abubucay-Hacienda Line.
The tanks formed a new bivouac just south of the Pilar-Baggao Road and had a few days rest. While they rested, 17th Ordnance and the maintenance sections of the battalion did long overdue work on the tanks. Also around this time, the tank companies were reduced to ten tanks so that tanks could be given to D Company, 192nd, which had lost its tanks after a bridge had been destroyed before they had crossed it.
C Company and D Company, 192nd., were sent to the Cadre Road on the 12th but returned on the 13th because ordnance had planted landmines which made reaching the road impossible. C Company was sent to Bagac, on the 16th, to reopen the West Highway Road that had been cut by the Japanese so troops trapped behind the roadblock could escape. A platoon of tanks at the Moron Highway and Trail 162 knocked out an anti-tank gun, and with the help of infantry, cleared the roadblock.
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.”
Both tank battalions held a line along the Balanga-Cardre Road-Banobano Road so that other units could withdraw which was completed by midnight. They held the line until the night of the 26th/27th when they withdrew and formed a new defensive line roughly along the Pilar-Bagac Road.
At about 9:45 A.M., a Filipino civilian came down the road and warned the tankers that a Japanese force was on its way. The tanks, with four SPMs, opened up on the Japanese when they appeared. The fighting lasted 45 minutes when the Japanese withdrew having suffered 50 percent casualties. This action prevented the Japanese from overrunning the new defensive line which was still being formed.
The tank battalions were given beach duty so that the Japanese could not land troops behind the main line of defense. The half-tracks of the battalions patrolled the roads. At 2;50 A.M., a Japanese motorized unit was head coming down the road with the lead vehicle having dimmed headlights. The 194th had a roadblock in place with guns aimed at various angles. When they opened up, they caused heavy damage to the Japanese column.
It was also at this time that the tank battalions, without orders, took on the job of protecting three airfields. The airfields had been built so a rebuilt Air Corps would have places to land. About the same time, the fighting on Bataan came to a standstill since the Japanese troops were exhausted and suffering from the same tropical illnesses as the defenders. To end the stalemate, the Japanese brought in fresh troops from Singapore.
The Japanese launched an all-out offensive on April 3 breaking through the line of defense held by II Corps. The 194th moved its companies to support the defenders along the line from the East Coast Road and to the west. The tanks repeatedly were sent to areas where the Japanese had broken through which was difficult to do since the roads were clogged with retreating vehicles.
On April 7, the 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, supported by tanks, attempted 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, which had only seven tanks left, was attached to the 192nd. One of the tanks was under the command of Pvt. Raymond Peoples.
It was at this time that the 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.”
General Edward King announced at 10:30 that night that further resistance would result in the massacre of 6,000 sick and wounded and 40,000 civilians. He also estimated that less than 25% of his troops were healthy enough to continue to fight and would hold out for one more day. He ordered his staff officers to negotiate terms of surrender.
Between 6:30 and 6:45 A.M. on April 9, 1942, the order “CRASH” was issued. The tankers destroyed their tanks and waited for orders from the Japanese. The members of the 194th were ordered the next day, to move to the headquarters of the Provisional Tank Group, which was at kilometer marker 168.2.
At 7:00 P.M. on the 10th, the POWs were ordered to march. They made their way from the former command post, and at first, found the walk difficult. When they reached the main road, walking became easier. At 3:00 A.M., they were given an hour break before being ordered to move again at 4:00 A.M. The column reached Lamao at 8:00 A.M., where the POWs were allowed to forage for food before marching again at 9:00.
During this part of the march to reach the main road out of Bataan, the POWs noted that they were treated well by the Japanese who were combat-hardened troops. Their guards were surprised that they had surrendered and treated them fairly well. It was at Limay that the treatment they received would change.
When the POWs reached Limay, officers with ranks of major or higher were separated from the enlisted men and the lower-ranking officers. The higher-ranking officers were put on trucks and driven to Balanga from where they march north to Orani. The lower-ranking officers and enlisted men reached the barrio later in the day having marched through Abucay and Samal.
At 6:30 in the evening, the POWs were ordered to form detachments of 100 men. Once this was done, they resumed the trip north, but this time they were marched at a faster pace and were given few breaks. When they did receive a break, they had to sit in the road until they were ordered to move.
When they were north of Hermosa, the POWs reached pavement which made the march easier. At 2:00 A.M., they received an hour break, but any POW who attempted to lay down was jabbed with a bayonet. After the break, they were marched through Layac and Lubao. It was at this time that a heavy shower took place and many of the men opened their mouths in an attempt to get water.
The men were marched until 4:00 P.M. when they reached San Fernando. Once there, they were herded into a bullpen, surrounded by barbwire, and put into groups of 200 men. One POW from each group went to the cooking area which was next to the latrine and received a box of rice that was divided among the men. Water was given out in a similar manner with each group receiving a pottery jar of water to share.
At 4:00 A.M., the Japanese woke the men up and organized them into detachments of 100 men. From the compound, they were marched to the train station, where they were packed into small wooden boxcars known as “forty or eights.” Each boxcar could hold forty men or eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors. The POWs were packed in so tightly that the dead could not fall to the floor. At Capas, as the living left the cars and those who had died – during the trip – fell to the floors of the cars. As they left the cars, the Filipino civilians threw sugarcane and gave the POWs water.
The POWs marched eight kilometers to Camp O’Donnell which was an unfinished Filipino Army Training Base that 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 Japanese money 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 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 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.
The Archbishop of Manila sent a truckload of medical supplies to the camp, the Japanese commandant refused to allow the truck into the camp. When the Japanese Red Cross sent medical supplies the camp the Japanese took 95% of the supplies for their own use.
The POWs in the camp hospital lay on the floor elbow to elbow and only one of the six medic assigned to care for 50 sick POWs was healthy enough to care for them. 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. To clean the ground under the hospital, the ground was scraped and lime was spread over it. The bodies of the dead were placed in the area, and the area they had been laying was scrapped 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 death rate among the POWs reached 50 men dying a day. Since the death rate at the camp was extremely high, Ray with other members of the C Company volunteered to go out on a bridge-building detail. This detail was also under the command of Lt. Col. Ted Wickord the commanding officer of the 192nd Tank Battalion.
The detail was composed of 150 Prisoners of War whose job it was to rebuild bridges that had been destroyed during the American retreat. Seventy-five of the POWs were selected to work at a sawmill to produce the lumber that would be needed to rebuild the bridges.
Ray first worked at Calaun. There the POWs were amazed by the concern shown for them by the Filipino people. The townspeople arranged for their doctor and nurses to care for the POWs and give them medication. They also arranged for the POWs to attend a meal in their honor.
Ray was 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.
While working on the detail, a POW at the sawmill escaped. Since the Japanese had instituted the “blood brother” policy, ten POWs were selected to be executed. The Japanese picked the five POWs who slept on both sides of the escaped man. Lt. Col. Wickord was sent to the sawmill to watch the execution and then tell his men what he had seen.
The next bridge Ray and the other POWs were sent to build was in Candelaria. 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 selected the twelve sickest POWs to attend the meal.
When the detail ended, Ray was sent to Cabanatuan. This camp had been opened in an attempt by the Japanese to improve the conditions for the POWs. Cabanatuan had been the headquarters of the 91st Philippine Army Division and was formerly known at Camp Pangatian.
To prevent escapes, the POWs set up a detail that patrolled the fence of the camp. The reason this was done was that those who did escape and were caught were tortured before being executed, while the other POWs were made to watch. It is believed that no POW successfully escaped from the camp.
In the camp, the Japanese instituted the “Blood Brother” rule. If one man escaped the other nine men in his group would be executed. POWs caught trying to escape were beaten. Those who did escape and were caught were tortured before being executed. It is not known if any POW successfully escaped from the camp.
The barracks in the camp were built to house 50 POWs, but most had between 60 to 120 POWs in them. The POWs slept on bamboo slats, without mattresses, bedding, or mosquito netting. Many quickly became ill. The POWs were assigned to barracks which meant that the members of their group lived together, went out on work details together, and would be executed together since they were Blood Brothers.
The POWs were sent out on 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 “speedo” 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.
The POWs had the job of burying the dead. To do this, they worked in teams of four men. Each team carried a litter of four to six dead men to the cemetery where they were buried in graves containing 15 to 20 bodies.
Mistreatment of the POWs also took place during roll call. One Japanese guard liked to kick the POWs in their shins as they stood at attention. Still, others would walk down the line and hit the POWs, in the face, as they called out their numbers.
On the October 27, Ray and other POWs were sent to Manila for transport to Davao, Mindanao. The POWs were put on the Erie Maru. The ship sailed on October 28 for Iloilo and then Cebu City on Cebu Island. After these stops, the ship sailed for Lasang, Mindanao arriving there on November 7. From there, the POWs were taken to Davao.
Ray and the other POWs on the detail farmed and constructed runways. He remained on this detail until June 6, 1944. On June 12, the POWs were taken to Lasang and boarded onto the Yashu Maru. The ship sailed for Cebu City and arrived on June 17. The POWs remained in the ship’s holds for four days. On June 21, Ray and the others were transferred to the Teiryu Maru and sailed for Manila arriving on June 24. Upon arriving in Manila, the POWs were taken to Bilibid Prison. Ray remained there until he was selected for shipment to Japan.
Ray returned to Pier Seven in Manila and was boarded onto the Canadian Inventor. The ship sailed but returned to port. It sailed a second time on July 16. It was also given the name the “Mati Mati Maru.” During the voyage, the Canadian Inventor arrived at Takao, Formosa, on July 23, and remained there until August 4. It sailed and went to Keelung, Formosa, for more boiler repairs and remained there until August 17 when it sailed again but had to stop at the Ryukyu Islands for more repairs then sailed for Naha, Okinawa, where it left and returned several times, before finally arriving at Moji, Japan, on September 1, 1944. When the ship finally arrived in Japan, the trip had taken 62 days.
Ray was taken to Nagoya #5 which was also known as Yokkaichi Camp. The POWs in the camp were used to manufacture Sulphuric Acid while other POWs worked at a smelter and sawmill. The POWs lived in flimsy wooden barracks.
Punishment in the camp took many forms. The POWs were punched, beaten with ropes, rocks, clubs, shoes, belts, and poles to make them work faster. Many of the punishments received by the POWs were the result of the Japanese interpreter, Shinshi Kirio, intentionally misinterpreting orders, or outright lying so that the POWs would be beaten. He also made POWs, as punishment, run in circles in the cold.
Afterward, it was not uncommon for the Japanese to rub salt into the man’s wounds and had their food rations cut. They were made to stand at attention with their arms outstretched, in front of them, holding buckets of water at arm’s length. Other men were suspended from ladders – by their wrists – and beaten while they hung there. They also were made to kneel on rocks or bamboo poles with heavy rocks behind their knees or squat for hours at a time with a pole behind their knees.
Meals for the prisoners often consisted of rice. In the rice were small pebbles which damaged the POWs teeth. The sick in the camp were forced to work since the Japanese needed a certain number of POWs to unload the coal at the docks. A Japanese medic had final say over who worked and who stayed in the camp.
In late 1944, the POWs received a full Red Cross Box and celebrated their blessings. It was at this time that one of the American POWs who was known as “Muscleman” because he had been a boxer, attempted to collect debts, with interest, from POWs. When he began to rough up another POW who refused to pay him with his Red Cross supplies, the other POWs jumped him and beat him. They had had enough of the man.
The POWs went to work on August 15, but returned to the camp early; They did not go to work the next day. On August 17, American planes were everywhere but there were no air raid sirens, and that night the lights in the camp were left on all night. The POWs noticed the size of their rations increased a couple of times. Finally, the planes dropped food and clothing to the former POWs in 50-gallon drums.
On September 4, 1945, the POWs left the camp and taken to Hamamatsu, where they boarded the U.S.S. Rescue, a hospital ship. The really sick remained on the ship when it arrived at Yokohama. From there, the POWs were driven to an airfield south of Tokyo and flown to Okinawa and later returned to the Philippines.
Ray returned home on the U.S.S. Joseph T. Dyckman on October 16, 1945, at San Francisco, California. He was sent to Letterman General Hospital before returning home. He married and became a father. He would continue to reside in Santa Clara, California, where he died on April 22, 1979, and was buried at Los Gatos Memorial Park, San Jose, California.