Pvt. Arthur Thomas Poynter
Born: 26 August 1921 – Barren County, Kentucky
Parents: Cann C. and Lidia E. Poynter
– mother was his father’s second wife
– he was raised by his step-mother
– 1 sister, 2 brothers, 6 half-brothers
Hometown: Cave City, Kentucky
– 23 August 1939
– U.S. Army
– 19th Ordnance Battalion
– Fort Knox, Kentucky
– Week 1: infantry drilling
– Week 2: manual arms and marching to music
– Week 3: machine gun
– Week 4: pistol
– Week 5: M1 rifle
– Week 6: field week – training with gas masks, gas attacks, pitching tents, and hikes
– Weeks 7, 8, 9: Time was 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
– Classroom: courses lasted 3 months
– Weapons: soldiers assigned to ordnance issued a pistol, and possibly a machine gun or submachine gun
– Vehicle Training: soldiers attended different schools
– tank maintenance, truck maintenance, scout car maintenance, motorcycle maintenance, and carpentry
– The company’s machine shop, welding shop, and kitchen were all on trucks
– learned to repair 57 different vehicles used by the Army
– learned to repair and maintain weapons used by tank battalions
– August 1941
– 17th Ordnance Company called back to Ft. KnoxOverseas Duty:
– A Company inactivated
– 17 August 1941 – activated as 17th Ordnance Company
– received orders for duty in the Philippines because of an event that happened during the summer.
– A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots noticed something odd
– He took his plane down and identified a buoy, with a flag, in the water. He came upon more flagged 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 flight plane and flew south to Mariveles and then returned to Clark Field. When the planes landed, it was too late to do
anything that day.
– The next day – when planes were sent to the area – the buoys had been picked up and a fishing boat – with a tarp covering something on its deck – was
seen making its way toward shore.
– communication between the Air Corps and the Navy was poor, so the boat escaped
– the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines
– traveled by train to Ft. Mason, San Francisco, California
– tanks assigned to the 194th Tank Battalion were on the train
– Arrived: Thursday, 5 September 1941
– spent three days removing the turrets and painting the tanks’ serial numbers on the turrets
– put cosmoline on the guns to prevent rust
– given physicals and inoculations
– men with medical conditions replaced
– removed turrets from tanks of the 194th Tank Battalion
– Ship: S.S. President Calvin Coolidge
– Boarded: San Francisco, California – Monday – 8 September 1941
– Sailed: 9:00 P.M.
– Arrived: Honolulu, Hawaii – Saturday – 13 September 1941 – 9:00 A.M.
– soldiers were given shore leave for the day
– Sailed: same-day – 5:00 P.M.
– took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes
– joined by the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Astoria, an unknown destroyer, and the U.S.S. Guadalupe a fleet replenishment oiler
– Tuesday – 16 September 1941 – crossed International Dateline
– date changed to – Thursday – September 18, 1941
– Arrived: Manila, Philippine Islands – Friday – 26 September 1941
– Disembarked: 3:00 P.M.
– 17th Ordnance remained behind to unload the tanks of the 194th Tank Battalion
– reattached the turrets to the tanks.
– rode a bus to Ft. Stotsenburg
– Ft. Stotsenburg
– lived in tents in a low lying area
– tents flooded the first night in a heavy rain
– barracks completed – 15 November 1941
– the company followed the 194th Tank Battalion’s workday
– 5:15 A. M. – reveille
– washing – the lucky man washed by a faucet with running water
– 6:00 A.M. – breakfast
– 7:00 to 11:30 A.M.
– Noon – lunch
– 1:30 to 2:30 P.M. – work
– the shorter afternoon work period was based on the belief that the climate made it too hot to work
– the tankers worked until 4:30 P.M.
– the term “recreation in the motor pool” was used for this work time
– during this time, they learned about the M3A1 tanks
– read manuals on tanks
– studied the 30-caliber and 50 caliber machineguns, and its 37-millimeter main gun
– spent three hours of each day taking the guns apart and putting them back together
– did it until they could disassemble and assemble the guns blindfolded
– tank crews could not fire guns since they were not given ammunition
– the base commander was waiting for General MacArthur to release the ammunition
– 5:10 – dinner
– after dinner, the soldiers were free to do what they wanted to do
– the soldiers spent their free time bowling, going to the movies,
– they also played horseshoes, softball, badminton, or threw a football around
– on Wednesday afternoons, they went swimming
– they also went to Mt. Aarayat National Park and swam in the swimming pool there that was filled with mountain water
– men were allowed to go to Manila in small groups
– they also went to canoeing at Pagsanjan Falls in their swimsuits
– the country was described as being beautiful
– Battle of Luzon – 8 December 1942 – 6 January 1942
– 8 December 1942
– that morning the soldiers were laying rocks for sidewalks by their barracks
– informed by their commanding officer, Major. Richard Kadel, about Pearl Harbor
– the company went to a bamboo thicket where they could disperse vehicles
– the company set up a bivouac
– set up machine shop trucks, half-tracks, and trucks
– received orders to return to Ft. Stotsenburg
– the alert had been canceled
– lunch had just been served so they remained at the thicket
– 12:45 P.M. – Japanese attacked
– sauerkraut and hot dogs flew everywhere
– took cover under their trucks
– the Zeros banked and turned around over the thicket after strafing
– ordered not to fire at them
– one reason was the trucks had the only machines in the Philippines that could make parts for the tanks
– Japanese wiped out Army Air Corps
– dead and wounded were everywhere at the airfield
– after the attack on Clark Field, 17th Ordnance ordered to leave by General James R. N. Weaver to Pulilan
– the company moved as the tanks moved
– the company set up fuel dumps for tanks as they withdrew toward Bataan
– it also converted WWI anti-personnel shells for use by tanks
– the company was never on the front lines but lived with the bombings
– individuals did do tank repairs on the frontlines
– repaired disabled tanks
– converted shells into anti-personnel shells
– 17th Ordnance was always in the same area where the tanks were fighting
– Battle of Bataan – 7 January 1942 – 9 April 1942
– 17th Ordnance worked to keep the tanks of the 192nd and 194th Tank Battalions running
– the company headquartered in an ordnance depot building which was empty
– ammunition dumps surrounded the depot
– repaired tanks damaged by Japanese or tank crews
– manufactured replacement parts for tanks
– 3 April 1942
– Japanese launch new offensive
– tanks sent into various sectors to stop the Japanese advance
– 6 April 1942
– four tanks sent to support the 45th Philippine Infantry and 75th Infantry, Philippine Scouts
– one tank knocked out by anti-tank fire at the junction of Trails 8 & 6
– other tanks covered withdraw
– near Mt. Samat ran into heavy Japanese force
– the tanks withdrew to Marivales
– 8 April 1942
– Gen. Edward P. King decided that further resistance was futile since approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight
– 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.
– 6:30 P.M. – order went out. “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.”
– 10:30 P.M. – decision made to send white flag across the battle line
– 11:10 P.M. – the company was given a half-hour to evacuate the depot before the ammunition dumps were destroyed
– 11:40 P.M. – ammunition dumps were blown up
– 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 white flag was bedding from A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion
– Shortly after daylight Collier and Hunt returned with word of the appointment
– the tankers received this message over their radios at 6:45 A.M. – 9 April 1942
– circled tanks and fired an armor-piercing shell into each tank’s engine
– opened gasoline cocks and dropped grenades into the crew compartment
– as King left to negotiate the surrender, he went through that was held by the tank group and spoke to them
– he told them he was going to get them the best deal he could get
– he also said, “When you get home, don’t ever let anyone say you, you surrendered. I was the one who surrendered.”
– Gen. King with his two aides, Maj. Cothran and Captain Achille C. Tisdelle Jr. got into a jeep carrying a large white flag
– They were followed by another jeep – also flying another large white flag – with Col. Collier and Maj. Hurt in it
– As the jeeps made their way north they were strafed and small bombs were dropped by a Japanese plane
– The drivers of both jeeps and the jeeps were provided by the tank group and both men managed to avoid the bullets
– The strafing ended when a Japanese reconnaissance plane ordered the fighter pilot to stop strafing
– About 10:00 A.M. the jeeps reached Lamao where they were received by a Japanese Major General who informed King that he reported his coming to
negotiate a surrender and that an officer from the Japanese command would arrive to do the negotiations
– The Japanese officer also told him that his troops would no attack for thirty minutes while King decided what he would do
– After a half-hour, no Japanese officer had arrived from their headquarters and the Japanese attack had resumed.
– King sent Col. Collier and Maj. Hunt back to his command with instructions that any unit inline with the Japanese advance should fly white flags
– Shortly after this was done a Japanese colonel and interpreter arrived. King was told the officer was Homma’s Chief of Staff and he had come to discuss
– King attempted to get insurances from the Japanese that his men would be treated as prisoners of war, but the Japanese officer – through his interpreter
– he was accused 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
– 6:45 A.M. – the order “CRASH” was sent for equipment to be destroyed
– 9 April 1942
– escaped to Corregidor when Bataan surrendered
– 6 May 1941
– Prisoner of War
– Japanese lunch an all-out attack on the island
– Philippine Islands
– held on the beach for two weeks after the island surrendered
– taken by barge to a point of Luzon
– POWs jumped into the water and swam to shore
– marched down Dewey Boulevard to Bilibid Prison
– remained there for a couple of days
– sent to Cabanatuan
– in May, his family received a letter from the War Department
“Dear Mrs. L. Poynter:
“According to War Department records, you have been designated as the emergency addressee if Private Arthur T. Poynter, 06,665,841, 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”
– Philippine Army Base built for 91st Philippine Army Division
– original name: Camp Pangatian
– three camps:
– Camp #1
– POWs from Camp O’Donnell sent there
– Camp 2 was four miles away
– all POWs moved from there because of a lack of water
– later used for Naval POWs
– Camp 3 was six miles from Camp 2
– POWs from Corregidor sent there
– Camp Administration:
– the Japanese left POWs to run the camp on their own
– Japanese entered camp when they had a reason
– daily POW meal
– 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, sweet potato or corn
– rice was the main staple, few vegetables or fruits
– when they received dried fish, it was covered with maggots and lice
– Arthur worked on camp farm
– also went out on road detail
– many POWs on details were able to smuggle in medicine, food, and tobacco into the camp
– men who attempted to escape and caught were executed
– daily POW meal – 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, sweet potato or corn
– Camp Hospital:
– 30 Wards
– each ward could hold 40 men
– frequently had 100 men in each
– two tiers of bunks
– sickest POWs on the bottom tier
– each POW had a 2 foot by 6-foot area to lie in
– Zero Ward
– given the name, because it had been missed when counting wards
– became ward where those who were going to die were sent
– fenced off from other wards
– Japanese guards would not go near it
– POWs sent there had little to no chance of surviving
– In July 1942, the father received a second letter. 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, Private Arthur T. Poynter 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.”
– Clark Field
– POWs screened gravel and cut the grass when they arrived at the airfield
– worked long hours on short rations
– prepared in a 50-gallon drum
– Japanese made sick work if they believed they weren’t sick enough
– POWs who couldn’t work were severely beaten
– one Japanese lieutenant frequently hit POWs over the head with a saber
– POWs were beaten with a golf club for no reason
– forced to work during typhoon season
– clothing of POWs was loincloths
– when one POW escaped, the rest were not fed
– POWs built revetments and runways with picks and shovels
– built ammunition bunkers, revetments, and runways
– Bilibid Prison
– sent to Bilibid Hospital Ward
– Meals consisted of a half to three-quarters of a mess kit of rice twice a day
– food was often contaminated which resulted in the prisoners getting dysentery
– POWs often ate garbage from scrap cans and pig troughs
– slept on the concrete floors
– no mosquito netting
– many POWs came down with malaria
– each man had two g-strings and two pairs of socks
– medical supplies
– never enough to treat sick
– seemed there was just enough to prolong the suffering
– the POWs had heard rumors that Cabanatuan had been liberated
– 2 February 1945 – the last POW died of dysentery
– 10:30 P.M. – the POWs heard small and large dentations to the southeast that lasted over an hour
– the men began to believe it was just a matter of days until they were liberated
– 3 February 1945 – was a normal day
– POWs went about the prison performing their chores
– told each other the latest rumors as they ate their evening meal
– It was at that time that six American planes flew over the compound
– the planes flew over very low and very slow
– 6:00 P.M. – evening roll call
– 6:30 P.M. – they heard the sound of artillery in the distance
– next, they heard heavy machine-gun fire
– the sound got closer and closer and closer
– All hell broke loose
– there was light artillery fire or fire from tanks
– there also was heavy machine-gun and light machine-gun fire, rifle fire, and pistol fire all coming from the north and east of the prison.
– At 10:30 P.M., the electricity went out
– The POWs heard the sound of guns and the ammunition dumps going up.
– They heard the sound of moving tanks, artillery fire, and small arms explosions
– lasted until 2:00 A.M.
– everything got quiet except for heavy artillery that could be heard in the distance
– 4 February 1945
– the POWs talked about what they had heard
– They also noticed that the Japanese guards seemed to be getting ready to leave.
– The senior American medical officer was called to the Japanese commanding officer’s office
– he was told that they were freeing the POWs
– He also told them to stay inside the prison
– a typed document stating the Japanese were releasing the POWs.
“1. The Japanese army is now going to release all prisoners of war and internees here on its own accord.
‘”2. We are assigned to another duty and shell be here no more.
“3. You are at liberty to act and live as free persons but you must be aware of probable dangers if you go out.
“4. We shall leave here foodstuffs, medicines, and other necessities of which you may avail yourselves for the time being.
“5. We have arranged to put signboard at the front gate bearing the following context: ‘Lawfully released prisoners of war and interests are quartered here. Please do not molest them unless they make positive resistance.’”
– At 11:45 A.M., the Japanese left, and the POWs posted their own guards and waited for the American to arrive.
– The POWs had three good meals that day and noted that a small American plane flew over the prisoner repeatedly that day.
– 6:00 P.M. – A wooden shutter on one of the walls was knocked down by a rifle butt.
– soldiers in funny-looking uniforms entered the prison
– American troops who had completely surrounded the prison and had been trying to get in to see what was inside.
– At first, the POWs thought the soldiers were Germans
– they had strange their helmets and uniforms
– when the soldiers spoke to them in English the POWs knew that they had been liberated.
– after being liberated it was discovered the Japanese had wired the prison with bombs with timers
– the power being knocked out which stopped the timers from working
– The POWs remained in the prison
– the belief was that the Japanese may attempt to retake the prison
– The 37th Infantry Division from Ohio came to the compound and visited the POWs. – followed by 148th Infantry, 7th Division.
– The Americans gave their cigarettes and K rations to the former POWs and seemed unable to do enough for them.
– They even gave the former POWs their whiskey, beer, and cigars that the Filipinos had given them.
– 5 February – 9:00 P.M. – there was gunfire on three sides of the prison
– the decision was made to move the former POWs to the Ang Tibay shoe factory on the outskirts of Manila
– The members of the 148th Infantry carried POWs out on litters
– they were evacuated in ambulances and on jeeps.
– The soldiers also helped the weak onto trucks
– they made sure that all the POWs were out of Bilibid
– the evacuation was completed by 11:35 P.M.
– The former POWs were moved to a brewery and drank beer at the brewery.
– 6 February – the former POWs were ordered back to Bilibid since it had better sanitary facilities.
– they found it had been looted and much of their personnel effects were gone.
– They received their first American food that morning which was canned ham and eggs, cereal milk, K biscuits, butter, jam, and coffee with milk and sugar.
– 9 February – The seriously ill who needed better medical treatment were sent to Santo Tomas
– 10 February – more men were sent there
– those men not able to make the trip were sent to Quezon Institute
– the remainder transferred to the 12th Replacement Battalion
– S.S. Monterey
– Sailed – Manila – not known
– Arrived: San Francisco, California – 16 March 1945
– taken to Letterman General Hospital
– Barren County, Kentucky
Married: Gracie May Toms – 1945
– 28 July 1969 – Glasgow, Kentucky
– Glasgow Municipal Cemetery – Glasgow, Kentucky