Capt. Edwin Wilson Rue was the son of Insco and Lotta Forbes-Rue. He was born on May 31, 1910, and was the fourth oldest child, and the oldest son, of the couple’s thirteen children. He was known as “Skip” to his family and friends. After high school, he attended the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky.
In 1934, two major events in Skip’s life took place. He married Frances True Brown and joined the 38th Tank Company of the Kentucky National Guard in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. With him in the National Guard was his brother, Arch.
While in the National Guard, Skip quickly rose in rank from private to sergeant. In the fall of 1940, his tank company was generalized. On November 25, 1940, the tank company was called to federal service as D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. The company boarded 10 trucks in Harrodsburg on November 28th and its tanks were loaded onto a flatcar and taken by train to Ft. Knox. The company left Harrodsburg at 12:30 P.M. arriving about four hours later at 4:30 P.M. It was at this time the Skip was promoted to First Sergeant.
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.
As the First Sergeant, Skip – on December 26th – was given the job of picking men to be transferred from the company to the soon to be formed Hq Company. Many of the men picked to be transferred to the company – from all the battalion’s companies – received promotions and because of their ratings received higher pay.
D Company moved into its barracks in December 1941. The barracks were adjacent to the Roosevelt Ridge Training Area. The men assigned to the Hq Company still lived with the D 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 company shared its mess hall with A Company until that company’s mess hall was finished.
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 captain’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.
The biggest problem facing the unit was the lack of equipment. Many of the tanks were castoffs from the regular army or pulled from the junkyard at Ft. Knox and rebuilt by the tank companies. The tanks were also restricted in where they could be driven and very little training was done with the infantry. The companies received new trucks and motorcycles in the Spring of 1941.
The men received training under the direction of the 69th Armored Regiment, 1st Armored Division. This was true for the tank crews and reconnaissance units who trained with the regiment’s tanks and reconnaissance units and later trained with their own companies.
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. All classes they attended were under the command of the 1st Armored Division.
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. About January 12, 1941, their mess hall opened and they ate off real plates with forks and knives. They also no longer had to wash their own plates since that job fell on the men assigned to Kitchen Police. 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 during this time that he resigned as an enlisted man and reenlisted as an officer.
During February, four composite tank detachments made of men from all the companies of the battalion left Ft. Knox – on different dates – on problematic moves at 9:00 A.M. The detachments 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. They received their rations from a food truck.
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.
On June 14th and 16th, the battalion was divided into four detachments composed of men from different companies. Available information shows that C and D Companies, part of Hq Company and part of the Medical Detachment left on June 14th, while A and B Companies, and the other halves of Hq Company and the Medical Detachment left the fort on June 16th. These were tactical maneuvers – under the command of the commanders of each of the letter companies. The three-day tactical road marches were to Harrodsburg, Kentucky, and back. The purpose of the maneuvers was to give the men practice at loading, unloading, and setting up administrative camps to prepare them for the Louisiana maneuvers.
Each tank company 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 included the companies’ kitchens), and 1 ambulance. The detachments 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 through Lebanon, New Haven, and Hodgenville, Kentucky. At Hodgenville, the men were allowed to visit the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln.
From September 1 through 30, he took part in maneuvers in Louisiana. The entire battalion was loaded onto trucks and sent in a convoy to Louisiana while the tanks and wheeled vehicles were sent by train.
During the maneuvers that 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. 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. Some felt that they just rode around in their tanks a lot.
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 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 went to Camp Polk and brought back the tank wrecker to pull the tank out.
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, and he and the other members of the battalion were told that they were not being released from federal service but being sent overseas. Men 29 years old or older were allowed to resign from federal service and replaced. Skip, being over twenty-nine years old, was given the opportunity to resign from federal service, but he made the decision to remain with his company and go overseas. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant and became the commanding officer of D Company.
The reason for this move was an event that took place in the summer of 1941. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots, whose plane was lower than the others, noticed something odd in the water. He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and saw another in the distance. The planes 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 located hundreds of miles away. The island had a large radio transmitter on it. The squadron continued its flight plane and flew south to Mariveles before returning to Clark Field. When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything about the buoys.
The next day – when a when planes were sent to the area – the buoys had been picked up and a fishing boat was seen making its way toward shore. Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was poor, nothing was done to intercept the boat. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
The battalion traveled west by train to San Francisco, California, and was taken by ferry to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island on the ferry U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe. At Ft. McDowell, they were given physicals and inoculated for overseas duty. Those men found to have a minor medical condition were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date, while other men were simply replaced.
The 192nd 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, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
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, another transport, the S.S. President Calvin Coolidge. On Sunday night, November 9, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11. During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Dateline.
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 shot off in the direction of the smoke. It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country, but two other intercepted ships were Japanese freighters carrying scrap metal.
When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day. At one point, the ships passed an island at night and 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 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks. At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.
At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward P. King. The general apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield. He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner – a stew thrown into their mess kits – before he went to have his own. Being an officer, Skip was invited – with the other 192nd officer – to eat dinner with the 194th Tank Battalion. Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg. The ragged World War I 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 a runway used by the B-17s for takeoffs. The planes passed over the bivouac at 100 feet with a great deal of noise and large amounts of dirt blown everywhere. At night, the men heard the sound of planes flying over the airfield which turned out to be Japanese reconnaissance planes.
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” 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 everywhere; including going to the PX.
Ten days before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the reconnaissance pilots reported that Japanese transports were milling around in a large circle in the China Sea. On Monday, December 1, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers. The 194th Tank Battalion guarded the northern portion of the airfield and the 192nd guarded the southern portion. At all times, two members of each tank and half-track remained with their vehicles. Meals were served to the tankers from food trucks.
On December 8, 1941, Skip lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field. As a member of the Provisional Tank Group, he was assigned to the tank group’s headquarters as Hq Commandant. It was during this time that he was promoted to captain. He recalled the attack on Clark Field, “When the attack came, I was in the headquarters building acting as General James R. N. Weaver’s liaison officer. I could see the fighter planes make the turn at the far end of the runway, strafing.”
Skip was assigned to General Weaver’s headquarters as a liaison officer. The day after the Japanese landed troops at Lingayen Gulf, Weaver asked him how long it would take to get the tanks to the area. Skip told him that it would take ten minutes. It was Skip who carried the message to the tankers to engage the Japanese.
It was at this time that, in Skip’s opinion, the tankers’ training went unused since they had been trained to fight an offensive war. Hit hard and fast and get out. Instead, General MacArthur used the tanks as defensive cover for withdrawing troops.
It should be mentioned that during this time Skip was promoted to 1st Lieutenant and Captain.
Skip stated, “After the Japanese troops landed, our mission was to defend Manila Bay while the Allied forces were being built up in the south Pacific, in preparation for the return to the Philippines. General Wainwright was in command of the corps at the time. it was there when the report came in that 80 Jap transports were lying off Lingayen Gulf.”
During the Battle of Bataan, Skip recalled that to supplement their diets the soldiers slaughtered caribou when they had the opportunity. When a rumor started that the Japanese had sprayed the meat with poison, no one wanted the meat.
In Skip’s opinion, it was important for the Filipino and American troops to hold Bataan as long as possible. In his opinion, by holding onto Bataan for four months, the Japanese were unable to use Manila Bay or take Corregidor.
On April 3, 1942, the Japanese launched an all-out attack supported by artillery and aircraft. A large force of Japanese troops came over Mount Samat and descended down the south face of the volcano. This attack wiped out two divisions of defenders and left a large area of the defensive line open to the Japanese.
A counter-attack was launched – on April 7 – by the 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts which was supported by tanks. Its objective was to restore the line, but Japanese infiltrators prevented this from happening. During this action, one tank was knocked out but the remaining tanks successfully withdrew. C Company, 194th, was attached to the 192nd and had only seven tanks left.
It was the evening of April 8 that Gen. Edward P. King decided that further resistance was futile, since approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight, and he estimated they would last one more day. In addition, he had over 6,000 troops who sick or wounded and 40,000 civilians who he feared would be massacred. His troops were on one-quarter rations, and even at that ration, he had two days of food left. He also believed his troops could fight for one more day.
At 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 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.”
The tank crews circled their tanks. Each tank fired an armor-piercing shell into the engine of the tank in front of it. They also opened the gasoline cocks inside the tank compartments and dropped hand grenades into the tanks. Most of the company waited in their bivouac for the Japanese to make contact, while others attempted to reach Corregidor which had not surrendered.
Gen. King with his two aides, Maj. Cothran and Captain Achille C. Tisdelle Jr. got into a jeep carrying a large white flag. They were followed by another jeep – also flying another large white flag – with Col. Collier and Maj. Hurt in it. As the jeeps made their way north they were strafed and small bombs were dropped by a Japanese plane. The drivers of both jeeps and the jeeps were provided by the tank group and both men managed to avoid the bullets. The strafing ended when a Japanese reconnaissance plane ordered the fighter pilot to stop strafing.
About 10:00 A.M. the jeeps reached Lamao where they were received by a Japanese Major General who informed King that he reported his coming to negotiate a surrender and that an officer from Japanese command would arrive to do the negotiations. The Japanese officer also told him that his troops would no attack for thirty minutes while King decided what he would do.
After a half-hour, no Japanese officer had arrived from their headquarters and the Japanese attack had resumed. King sent Col. Collier and Maj. Hunt back to his command with instructions that any unit inline with the Japanese advance should fly white flags.
Shortly after this was done a Japanese colonel and interpreter arrived. King was told the officer was Homma’s Chief of Staff and he had come to discuss King’s surrender. King attempted to get insurances from the Japanese that his men would be treated as prisoners of war, but the Japanese officer – through his interpreter – accused him of declining to surrender unconditionally. At one point King stated he had enough trucks and gasoline to carry his troops out of Bataan. He was told that the Japanese would handle the movement of the prisoners. The two men talked back and forth until the colonel said through the interpreter, “The Imperial Japanese Army are not barbarians.” King found no choice but to accept him at his word.
Skip recalled that as food became scarce it also became unhealthier. He recalled: “I’d pick up food from the Filipinos – most of it was dirty. One (Filipino) brought me a dozen hard buns, and I thought, ‘this’ll last me a week.’ I opened them up and there were ants in them.”
Skip said that he was out in the field when he received his orders to surrender the night of April 8. He dismantled his .45 caliber handgun and threw the pieces away in different directions in the jungle. He also got rid of all his ammunition. He recalled that the night was filled with roars, flashing lights, and even an earthquake. Of the surrender, he said, “None of our troops ever surrendered. We were surrendered by high command.”
Skip and the other men assembled at Cabcaben in the south of Bataan. When Skip began the death march, he had one drink of water. As it turned out, he would not drink water again until he reached Camp O’Donnell.
Skip recalled that the worst things about the march were the lack of food and water and the heat. He also believed that the march was worse than people have heard. The food that Skip and the other POWs received was inadequate and prepared poorly. Rice was the main staple of the POWs. It was cooked in dirty 50 gallon drums. “I remember looking at the preparation once – I wouldn’t look at it again.”
At some point, the POWs were fed. About it, he said, “They fed us rice balls about the size of a baseball and they had seaweed in them. Seaweed is salty and it was put in the rice to replace the salt we were losing through our perspiration. I totally lost my appetite and gave the rice balls to an officer marching next to me.”
He also said of the march, “There were Japanese guards walking along with us, but there wasn’t much organization. No real pace you had to maintain. There was no way, considering the condition everybody was in, for us to move fast.
“Sometimes we got bunched up, they would make us stop or back up to spread out.
“We moved along, more and more people joined in. There were people coming in from all the little jungle trails that fed into the main road. The Japanese patrols were picking them up everywhere.
“I don’t know where I was in the line. I know there were a lot of people ahead and a lot of people behind.
“The group I was in, it took us five days to get from Bataan up to San Fernando and then to camp O’Donnell, the Japanese prison camp. That’s more than 60 miles.”
He also recalled, “As you walked along, there were people all along the sides of the road who had fallen out and couldn’t go on.
“There were all kinds of stories about the Japanese shooting people or bayoneting people who dropped out. I have no doubt that it went on, but I didn’t see any of it.
“Apparently, some of the guards would just shoot people, and some others would let people rest until they could go on.
“Sometimes you would see them dragging people off into the jungle and maybe you would hear shots. There were no question that lots of people were dying.
“I do know I stumbled over two bodies in the road. The column just walked right over them; they wouldn’t let you stop.
“There was no way you could stop and say ‘Hey let’s get this man out of the road.’ Even though everyone there would have liked to do it.
“One time I saw my younger brother, Arch, who joined the National Guard after I did. We spoke a few words, but we couldn’t stay together.”
Like so many soldiers, Skip started the march ill. He had beriberi and was weak. He also was suffering from hunger pains. Skip collapsed from exhaustion and hunger, and when he opened his eyes, a Japanese guard was standing over him holding an American .45 in his face. Skip recalled the gun was so close to his face that he could see the boring marks inside the gun’s barrel.
An officer of B Company, 192nd, was passing and shouted to Skip that he had nothing to worry about because the guard had no idea how to release the safety on the pistol. As it turned out the officer was right. For whatever reason, the guard allowed two Filipino soldiers to carry Skip between them. It took him five days to complete the march. When they reached San Fernando, they were put in a bullpen.
He also stated, “There were no real ‘rest stops’ and least none that I recall. Sometimes the column would stop a few minutes and you could drop down and rest. But that was all.
“I had lost my helmet. All I had was a little towel, which I tied at the corners and put over my head, to keep some of the sun off.
“I had a canteen, but I didn’t have any water. We had heard there were artesian wells up ahead where we could get water, and I decided to wait.
“But some people, particularly the Filipinos, were drinking out of mud holes and water buffalo wallows all along the way. That’s why there were lines of dead men later at O’Donnell. From drinking that water.”
He remembered that among the POWs were men who had gone crazy during the march. ” I remember men who lost their minds during the march. They were rounded up in the bullpen, and I could hear them screaming and fighting all night.”
In an interview he did in the 1990s he said, “After 50 years, I can’t describe the fatigue you felt. All I can say is that I felt like I could drop down anywhere, right in the middle of the road, and go to sleep. And anytime there was a little break, that’s just what I did.”
At San Fernando, Skip and the other POWs were forced into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane. Each car could hold forty men, but the Japanese packed 100 POWs into each car. They were packed in so tightly, that men passed out and died in the cars.
Recalling the boxcars, he said, “At San Fernando, they put us on trains for the trip to Camp O’Donnell. And that might have been the worst.
“The boxcars on those trains were small, and they just crammed people into them like cattle. The heat in there was unbelievable, and some men just died of suffocation.
“But I was one of the lucky ones. They happened to put me in a car where some guards were riding, and they kept the door open. I was able to get by the door and get a little air. Otherwise, maybe I wouldn’t have made it.”
At Capas, Skip and the other POWs climbed out of the cars. As they did, the dead fell to the floors. The POWs walked the last few miles to Camp O’Donnell. It had been five days since he started the march.
The camp was an unfinished Filipino training base that was pressed 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. 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 Japanese Red Cross sent medical supplies to 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 bodies were moved to one area, the ground was scraped and lime was spread over it. The bodies 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 death rate among the POWs reached 50 men dying a day.
Another experience that stayed with Skip his entire life was the image of the dead being carried to the cemetery to be buried. “I have a vivid memory of the continual of corpses being carried to the graveyard. There was a whole lot of sickness.”
In May or early June 1942, his parents received a message from the War Department:
“Dear Mrs. F. Rue:
“According to War Department records, you have been designated as the emergency addressee if Private Daniel J. Boni, 20,600,392, 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”
The Japanese finally acknowledge that they had to do something, so the opened a new POW camp at Cabanatuan. On June 1, 1942, the POWs formed detachments of 100 men each and were marched to Capas. There, they were put in steel boxcars with two Japanese guards. At Calumpit, the train was switched onto another line which took it to Cabanatuan.
The POWs disembarked and were taken to a schoolyard where they were fed cooked rice and onion soup. From there, they were marched to Cabanatuan which had been the headquarters of the 91st Philippine Army Division and was known as Camp Pangatian. The POW transfer was completed by June 4.
The camp was actually three camps. Camp 1 was where the men who captured on Bataan and taken part in the death march where held. Camp 2 did not have an adequate water supply and was closed. It later reopened and housed Naval POWs. Camp 3 was where those men captured when Corregidor surrendered were taken. In addition, men from Bataan who had been hospitalized when the surrender came were sent to the camp. Camp 3 was later consolidated into Camp 1.
Once in the camp, the POWs were allowed to run the camp. The Japanese only entered if they had an issue they wanted to deal with. 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
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. It was during that his beriberi got worst and his body was filling with fluids. Yandell Terhune gave him vitamin pills which stopped his beriberi. Ironically, Terhune died of dysentery in July 1942. It is known, from hospital records, that Skip was admitted to the camp hospital suffering from dysentery and malaria. The records do not show when he was admitted or discharged.
During July, his wife received a second letter 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, Captain Edwin W. Rue 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.”
Skip was sent out to the work detail at Nichols Airfield About September 1, 1942. With him on the detail was 1st Lt. George Van Arsdall. The POWs on the detail were housed at the Pasay School in eighteen rooms. Thirty POWs were assigned to a room. The POWs were used to extend and widen runways for the Japanese Navy. The plans for this expansion came from the American Army which had drawn them up before the war. The Japanese wanted a runway 500 yards wide and a mile long going through hills and a swamp.
Unlike the Americans, the Japanese had no plans on using construction equipment. Instead, they intended the POWs to do the work with picks, shovels, and wheelbarrows. The first POWs arrived at Pasay in August 1942. The work was easy until the extension reached the hills. When the extension reached the hills, some of which were 80 feet high, the POWs flattened them by hand. The Japanese replaced the wheelbarrows with mining cars that two POWs pushed to the swamp and dumped as land-fill. As the work became harder and the POWs weaker, less work got done.
At six in the morning, the POWs had reveille and “bongo” or count, at 6:15 in detachments of 100 men. After this came breakfast which was a fish soup with rice. After breakfast, there was a second count of all POWs, which included both healthy and sick, before the POWs marched a mile and a half to the airfield.
After arriving at the airfield, the POWs were counted again. They went to a tool shed and received their tools; once again they were counted. At the end of the workday, the POWs were counted again. When they arrived back at the school, they were counted again. Then, they would rush to the showers, since there only six showers and toilets for over 500 POWs. They were fed dinner, another meal of fish and rice, and than counted one final time. Lights were turned out at 9:00 P.M.
The brutality shown to the POWs was severe. The first Japanese commander of the camp, a Lt. Moto, was called the “White Angel” because he wore a spotless naval uniform. He was the commander of the camp for slightly over thirteen months. One day a POW collapsed while working on the runway. Moto was told about the man and came out and ordered him to get up. When he couldn’t four other Americans were made to carry the man back to the Pasay School.
At the school, the Japanese guards gave the man a shower and straightened his clothes as much as possible. The other Americans were ordered to the school. As they stood there, the White Angel ordered an American captain to follow him behind the school. The POW was marched behind the school and the other Americans heard two shots. The American officer told the men that the POW had said, “Tell them I went down smiling.” The White Angel shot the POW as the man smiled at him. As the man lay on the ground, he shot him a second time. The American captain told the other prisoners what had happened. The White Angel told them that this was what going to happen to anyone who would not work for the Japanese Empire.
The second commanding officer of the detail was known as “the Wolf.” He was a civilian who wore a Japanese Naval Uniform. Each morning, he would come to the POW barracks and select those POWs who looked the sickest and made them line up. The men were made to put one leg on each side of a trench and then do 50 push-ups. If a man’s arms gave out and he touched the ground, he was beaten with pick handles.
On another occasion, a POW collapsed on the runway. The Wolf had the man taken back to the barracks. When the Wolf came to the barracks that evening and the man was still unconscious, he banged the man’s head into the concrete floor and kicked him in the head. He then took the man to the shower and drowned him in the basin.
A third POW who had tried to walk away from the detail told the guards to shoot him, the guards took him back to the Pasay School and strung him up by his thumbs outside the doorway and placed a bottle of beer and sandwich in front of him. He was dead by evening.
The remains of the POWs who had died on the detail were brought to Bilibid Prison in boxes. The Japanese had death certificates, with the causes of death and signed by an American doctor, sent with the boxes. The Americans from the detail, who accompanied the boxes, would not tell the POWs at Bilibid what had happened. It was only when the sick, from the detail, began to arrive at Bilibid did they learn what the detail was like. These men were sent to Bilibid to die since it would look better when it was reported to the International Red Cross.
It appears that Skip was ill and returned to Cabanatuan at some point. On November 1, 1942, the Japanese drew 1500 POW names of men who were being sent to Japan. When the names were drawn, the POWs had no idea what was happening, but many came to the conclusion, on their own, that they were being sent to Japan.
At 3:00 A.M. on November 5, the POWs left the camp and marched to the Barrio of Cabanatuan. Before they left the camp, each man was given his breakfast, to take with, which was a small issue of rice and what the Japanese termed “a large piece of meat.” The large piece of meat was two inches square and large next to a piece of meat they usually received at a meal. Most ate their breakfast on the march to the barrio.
After they arrived at the barrio, a Japanese officer lectured the POWs before they boarded train cars. 98 POWs were put into each car which allowed them to position themselves so they could move around. They remained on the train all day and arrived at Manila at 5:00 P.M. After they disembarked, they were marched to Pier 7 where they spent the night sleeping on a concrete floor in a building.
The POWs boarded the Nagato Maru at 5:00 P.M. on November 6. The POWs were pushed into the forward hold which the Japanese believed that they could put 600 men in without a problem. They quickly realized that the hold could not hold 600 men, so they lowered the count to somewhere between 550 and 560. This meant that 10 men had to share four feet, nine inches, by six feet, two inches, of space. All the holds on the ship were packed in the same manner.
The POWs had barely enough room to sit down if their knees were drawn up under their chins. The heat was also unbelievable, so the Japanese allowed small groups of POWs up on the deck at night in shifts. The Nagato Maru sailed on November 7, 1942.
The Japanese had set up two latrines for the POWs. One was at the on each side of the ship’s deck and since so many of the POWs had dysentery and diarrhea, it soon became obvious not going to work. The sick who tried to use the latrines were beaten and kicked by the Japanese for making too much noise passing through the Japanese quarters. When they reached the deck, they ended up waiting in line.
For the extremely ill POWs, the Japanese sent down, into the hold, tubs for the extremely ill to use. The sick crawled, rolled, and stumbled to reach the tubs. Because the POWs were dehydrated, the POWs urinated frequently. In addition, those with dysentery and diarrhea could not make it to the tubs which resulted in the POWs standing into several inches of human waste. If they did try to reach the tubs, the men had stepped on the bodies of other POWs.
The Japanese allowed the POWs to set up a sickbay on the open deck, but in reality, all they could do is watch the sick grow weaker and die since they had no medicine to treat them. When a man died, his body was taken to the rail of the ship and thrown into the sea.
During the trip, Skip recalled that the POWs were always hungry. It was during the trip that he got the first signs of dry beriberi. His toes began to tingle and slowly the pain moved from the instep to his ankles. As it got worse, the pain would shoot up his legs and down again. Finally, he could not stand anything touching him.
The ship reached Takao, Formosa, on November 11. While it was docked there, the POWs could not leave the holds. The ship sailed on November 15, and arrived at Mako, Formosa, the same day. They remained in the holds with the fleas, lice, and roaches. The ship sailed again on November 18. During this part of the trip, the POWs felt the explosions from depth charges.
The trip to Japan ended on November 24, when the ship reached Moji late in the day. At 5:00 P.M. the next day they disembarked. As the POWs disembarked the ship, they were given chips of colored wood which determined which camp the man was sent to. Skip noticed that the color on his wood chip was different than what other POWs had in his group.
By ferry, the POWs were taken to Shimonoseki, Honshu, where they were loaded onto a train and took a long ride along the northern side of the Inland Sea to the Osaka-Kobe area. There, the prisoners were divided into two groups according to the color of the wood they had. In his case, he was sent to Tanagawa where the POWs, regardless of rank, were required to work at removing the side of a mountain for a Japanese Navy dry dock in violation of the Geneva Convention.
The POWs were subjected to daily beatings in the morning and evening muster. At many of them, they were forced to stand at attention from 2 to 2½ hours sometimes resulting in them not receiving their next meal. Shoes, rifle butts, belts, sticks, shovels, clubs, fists, and even furniture were used in the beatings.
No real reason was needed for the beatings, but a violation of some camp rule usually was the given reason. If a workgroup of POWs did not remove their quota a material from the worksite, they received a beating. Usually, the reason they failed to meet the quota was they were too hungry and weak to meet the quota.
While being beaten, the POWs were forced to hold a heavy log or rock above their heads. On one occasion 30 officers were made to stand at attention so that the Japanese found out who had misplaced a Japanese book
On December 22, 1942, the War Department released a list of men known to be held by the Japanese as Prisoners of War. His wife had been informed of this weeks earlier.
REPORT JUST RECEIVED THROUGH THE INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS STATES THAT YOUR HUSBAND CAPTAIN EDWIN RUE IS A PRISONER OF WAR OF THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT IN THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS LETTER OF INFORMATION FOLLOWS FROM THE PROVOST
ULIO THE ADJUTANT GENERAL.
Within days of receiving the first message, his wife received the following letter:
“The Provost Marshal General directs me to inform you that you may communicate with your son, postage free, by following the inclosed instructions:
“It is suggested that you address him as follows:
“Capt. Edwin W. Rue, U.S. Army
Interned in the Philippine Islands
C/O Japanese Red Cross, Tokyo, Japan
Via New York, New York
“Packages cannot be sent to the Orient at this time. When transportation facilities are available a package permit will be issued you.
“Further information will be forwarded you as soon as it is received.
“Howard F. Bresee
“Chief Information Bureau”
In mid-January 1943, Skip was one of 150 officers who left Tanagawa and sent by rail to the Island of Shikoku to a camp at Zentsuji and arrived on January 15, 1943, which was to be his home for the next two and one-half years.
The camp was used in Japanese propaganda to show how well the POWs were being treated. In all, there were 700 officers and enlisted men in the camp, and he met American officers who were not captured in the Philippines, as well as, British and Australian officers.
On August 11, his wife received a postcard from him indicating he had been transferred to Osaka, Japan. “I am interred in Osaka Umeda Bunsho Prisoner of War Camp. My health is usual. I am not working. Please see that Linda is taken care of. My love to you all, Skip.”
The POWs worked as stevedores in the rail yards of the Port of Takamatsu. Being an officer, Skip did not have to work. If he chose to work, he received more food, so he worked.
In the camp, two guards were known for their mistreatment of the POWs. One was called “Leatherwrist” and the other was known as “Clubfist” because both men right hands that had been injured. The two hit POWs, but since their right hands were of little use, they usually knocked them to the ground and kicked them with hobnail boots. In addition, POWs were often beaten for no apparent reason with kendo sticks, bayonets, and rifle butts.
During his time in the camp, on Thursday, January 13, 1944, the Japanese broadcasted a short message home from him. The broadcast was heard Cpl. Irvin J, Baker of Danville, Kentucky, who was stationed in India as a member of the Air Transport Command. Baker wrote his mother about the broadcast. A ham radio operator in Arizona recorded the broadcast and sent a copy of the recording to Frances Rue. As it turned out, the broadcast had been recorded, by the Japanese, on November 3, 1944.
At some point, Rue got into trouble. Of it, he said, “I recall it as if it like it was yesterday. I had given a fellow prisoner 20 yens to buy something for me. A Japanese officer stopped my friend and asked where he had gotten so much money. When the officer found out it was me, he gave me a beating.” Later, the same Japanese officer came to Rue’s barracks and motioned that Rue should follow him. “He brought me into his quarters, fixed some food on his little wok and shared his meal with me. That happened three times. We didn’t say anything to each other. I didn’t understand Japanese and he didn’t understand English. But we both understood food.”
On June 23, 1945, Skip was sent to Rokuoshi Camp with other officers. In this camp, the POWs worked on a farm to provide food for themselves. The POWs also worked loading and unloading train cars and at a mine. During his time in Japan, Skip noticed that American B-29s were appearing in the skies more frequently. At night, he could hear the bombs exploding for hours. The bombing stopped on August 14, 1945.
It was also in August that his wife received a letter from him that he had written in December 1944, and two postcards. One was written in October 1944 and the other January 1945.
The only news that Skip and the other POWs received about the atomic bomb was from the guards. A Japanese guard ran into Skip’s barracks screaming, “Yankee vultures! New weapon! Boom!” As the guard screamed this, he waved his arms wildly. This was the first time that Skip and seen a Japanese guard look pale.
One day, six B-29s flew over the camp and parachuted food and clothing to the starving POWs. “It was just like an air raid – you had to look out to keep from getting hit by food.”
Skip and the other POWs were taken by train through Osaka. He could not believe his eyes at what he saw. Nothing was standing except one smokestack.
After he was liberated, Skip weighed himself. To his amazement, he weighed 87 pounds, and his waist was down to 17 inches. On September 10, 1945, Skip was returned to the Philippines. There, he learned that his younger brother, Arch, who was an officer with D Company, died when the ship he was on, the Oryoku Maru, was attacked by American planes. His wife would learn of his liberation on September 23.
After he was liberated, Skip was promoted to Major and returned to the Philippine Islands. He returned to the United States on the U.S.S. General R. L. Howze, which sailed on September 23, 1945, and arrived on October 16, 1945, at San Francisco. After more medical treatments, he was discharged on September 25, 1946.
It should be noted that after the fall of Bataan, LIFE Magazine in its July 6, 1942, issue published an article on D Company and Harrodsburg. In the magazine, there was a full-page photo of Skip’s daughter, Linda. Since the website was created, we have been contacted several times by people, born on that date, who had recently received the magazine as a birthday present.
Each time, the person wrote that he or she found our website attempting to find out if the daddy of the little girl, in the picture, had made it home from the war. Those individuals who contacted us were always happy to learn that Skip had survived the war and returned home to his wife and daughter.
Skip remained in the military and rose to the rank of Major. He became the father of a second daughter, Joan. Joan’s daughter is the actress, Sarah Rue, who played Nurse Martha in the movie, “Pearl Harbor” and was a main character on the television show, “Less than Perfect.” She also had a recurring role on the television show, “Rules of Engagement.” She currently has a recurring role in the television series, “American Housewife.”
Edwin “Skip” Rue died on November 28, 2004, in Lexington, Kentucky, and was buried at Spring Hill Cemetery in Harrodsburg.