Serpell, Cpl. Edward P.

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Serpell E

Cpl. Edward Patrick Serpell
Born: 26 February 1919 – Lexington, Kentucky
Parents: Jane Farrell-Serpell and John A. Serpell
Sibling: 1 brother
Nickname: Pat
– may have used Patrick as his first name
Hometown: Lexington, Kentucky
– 1930 – lived with maternal grandmother at 220 Market Street
– 1935 – resided in San Francisco, California
– student at the University of California
– attended the University of Kentucky
– 1940 – living with maternal grandfather in unincorporated Jefferson County
Residence: Box 123, Brownsboro Road, Louisville, Kentucky
Education: Henry Clay High School
– Class of 1935
– one year of college
Selective Service Registration:
– 16 October 1940
– Contact Person: John A. Serpell – brother
– U. S. Army
– 6 March 1941 – Louisville, Kentucky
– Fort Knox, Kentucky
– Basic Training
– soldiers rushed through basic training
– 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  – trained with gas masks
– experienced gas attacks
– learned to pitch tents
– went on hikes
– Week 7: learned the weapons
– fired each one
– learned the parts of the weapons and their function
– field stripped and cared for weapons
– learned to clean the weapons
Typical Day
– 6:15 with reveille
– most of the soldiers were up before this since they wanted to wash and dress.
– 7:00 to 8:00 – breakfast
– 8:00 to 8:30 – calisthenics
– the tankers went to various schools within the company.
– training in using and maintaining
– 30 and 50 caliber machine guns and pistols
– training in map reading
– trained in the care of personal equipment, military courtesy, and in tactics.
– 11:30 the soldiers stopped what they were doing and cleaned up for mess  
– Noon to 1:00 P.M. – lunch
– Afterward, they attended 13–week classes at the various schools which they had been assigned to on January 13, such as mechanics, tank driving, radio
– 4:30 – the soldiers called it a day and returned to their barracks and put on dress uniforms
– 5:00 – retreat
– 5:30 – dinner
– after dinner, they were off duty
– 9:00 P.M. – lights were out
– soldiers but did not have to turn in
– 10:00 P.M. – Taps was played.
– in late March 1941, the entire battalion was moved to new larger barracks
– located 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
– men, form selective service, were permanently joining the battalion
– needed larger barracks 
Tactical Maneuvers:
– June 14 and 16
– the battalion was divided into four detachments composed of men from different companies
– C and D Companies, part of HQ Company, and part of the Medical Detachment left on June 14
– A and B Companies, and the other halves of HQ Company and the Medical Detachment left the fort on June 16
– 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 maneuvers gave the men practice at loading, unloading, and setting up administrative camps
– prepared 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)
– 1 ambulance.
– The detachments traveled through Bardstown and Springfield 
– arrived 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
– there the men swam, boated, and fished.
– returned to Ft. Knox through Lebanon, New Haven, and Hodgenville, Kentucky
– at Hodgenville, the men were allowed to visit the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln
– sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana,
– assigned to 753rd Tank Battalion
– June 16 – the other half of the battalion deployed
Louisiana Maneuvers:
– The entire battalion was loaded onto trucks
– rode in a convoy to Louisiana
– the tanks and wheeled vehicles were sent by train.
– the tanks held defensive positions and usually were held in reserve by the higher headquarters
– the tanks were used to counter-attack and in support of infantry
– the tanks held defensive positions and usually were held in reserve by the higher headquarters
– Many men felt that the tanks were finally being used like they should be used and not as “mobile pillboxes.”
– HQ Company worked to keep the tanks running, supplied, and performed administrative duties, but did not actively participate in the maneuvers.
– 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
– they were never told anything by the higher-ups
– some felt that they just rode around in their tanks a lot 
– at Ft. Knox, the tankers were taught that they should never attack an anti-tank gun head-on
– their commanding general threw away the entire battalion doing just that one day
– the battalion returned to the maneuvers after being held out for a period of time
– the battalion also went from fighting in the Red Army to fighting for the Blue Army.
– snake bites
– major problem
– every other man was bitten at some point by a snake
– the platoon commanders carried a snakebit kit
– it was used to create a vacuum to suck the poison out of the bite
– the bites were the result of cool nights and snakes crawling under the soldiers’ bedrolls while the soldiers were sleeping on them.
– one multicolored snake about eight inches long that was beautiful to look at was deadly
– if it bit a man he was dead
– the good thing was that these snakes would not just strike at the man
– they only struck if the man forced himself on them
– the soldiers carefully picked up their bedrolls in the morning
– looked to see if there were any snakes under them
– to avoid being bitten, men slept on the two and a half-ton trucks
– they also slept on or in the tanks.
– Another trick the soldiers learned was to dig a small trench around their tents
– placed a rope in the trench
– the burs on the rope kept the snakes from entering the tents
– snakes were not a problem if the night was warm
– the wild hogs were in the area were also a problem
– in the middle of the night while the men slept in their tents they would suddenly hear hogs squealing
– the hogs ran into the tents
– pushed on the tents until they took them down and dragged them away 
– food
– not very good since it was so damp that it was 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 found a creek and looked for alligators
– if there were none, they took a bar of soap and scrubbed whatever they were washing 
– clothes were usually washed once a week or once every two weeks
– the sandy soil was a problem
– 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
– other tanks were brought in and attempted to pull them out
– if that didn’t work, the tankers brought a tank wrecker from Camp Polk to pull the tank out
– the tank crews learned how to move their tanks at night
– this was something not taught at Ft. Knox
– the night movements were preparing them for what they would repeatedly do in the Philippines
– the drivers learned how to drive at night and to take instructions from their tank commanders
– the tank commanders had a better view at night
– at night a number of motorcycle riders from other tank units were killed
– had orders to ride their bikes without lights on
– this meant they could not see obstacles in front of their bikes
– when they hit something they fell to the ground and the tanks went over them 
– this happened several times
– the motorcycle riders were ordered to turn on their headlights
– Camp Polk, Louisiana
– volunteers replaced men released from federal service
– the battalion’s M2 A2 tanks were replaced by M3 tanks from the 753rd and the Third Amor Division
– Operation PLUM which was an acronym for Philippines, Luzon, Manila
Overseas Duty:
– the decision had been made in August 1941
– it was the result of an event that took place in the summer of 1941.
– A squadron of American fighters was over Lingayen Gulf, in the Philippines
– one of the pilots – who was flying at a lower altitude – noticed something odd
– He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and saw another in the distance.
– He came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line for 30 miles to the northwest,
– the buoys were in the direction of a Japanese occupied island which was hundreds of miles away 
– The island had a large radio transmitter
– The squadron continued its flight plan south to Mariveles and returned to Clark Field.
– When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.
– The next day, when another squadron was sent to the area
– the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat – with a tarp on its deck – which was seen making its way to shore
– Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was difficult, the boat escaped.
– It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
– rode a train to Ft. Mason, San Francisco, California
– Fort McDowell, Angel Island, California
– ferried to island on U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe
– received physicals from medical detachment – 25 October 1941 – 26 October 1941
– men with minor health issues held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date
– other men simply replaced
– Boarded: U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott
– Sailed: San Francisco – Monday – October 27, 1941
– Arrived: Honolulu, Hawaii – Sunday – 2 November 1941
– soldiers were given shore leave
– Sailed: Tuesday – 4 November 1941
– took a southern route away from mains shipping lanes
– joined by the U.S.S. Louisville and U.S.A.T. President Calvin Coolidge
– 11 November 1941 – crossed International Dateline
– 15 November 1941 – smoke was seen on the horizon
– Louisville intercepts ship from a friendly county
– two other intercepted ships were Japanese freighters hauling scrap metal to Japan
– Arrived: Guam – 16 November 1941
– the ship took on water, bananas, vegetables, and coconuts
– Sailed: 17 November 1941
– Arrived: 20 November 1941 – Manila, Philippine Islands
– soldiers disembarked the ship three to four hours after arrival
– boarded buses
– Stationed: Ft. Stotsenburg
– housed in tents along the main road between fort and Clark Airfield
– tents were near the runway that B-17s took off on
– planes flew over the bivouac about 100 feet off the ground
– the noise was tremendous and dirt was blown everywhere 
– General Edward King greeted them and apologize about their living quarters
– made sure that the soldiers had dinner – a stew thrown into their mess kits – before he had his own dinner
Radio Communications:
– 192nd set up a radio communications tent
– were in touch with the United States hours after arriving
– the men told their families they were safe
– the Manila radio monitoring station noted the new traffic
– they had no idea where it was coming from
– when they learned it was the 192nd, they issued the battalion its own frequencies to use
– Philippine Islands
– transferred to Headquarters Detachment, Provisional Tank Group
Battle of Luzon
– lived through the attack on Clark Field
– HQ Company remained in battalion bivouac
– members took cover in a dry latrine
–  after the bombers were done and before the Zeros strafed, the soldiers ran across the road
– hid behind stone horse jumping fences
– lived through two more heavy attacks on December 10 and 13
– 15 December 1941
– each battalion received 15 Bren Gun Carriers
– used to see if the ground could support tanks
– 21 December 1941
– 192nd ordered to support 26th Cavalry, Philippine Scouts at Lingayen Gulf
– Japanese landing troops
– HQ Company went north to support tank companies wherever they were
– Companies B, C, and HQ were ordered to Lingayen Gulf
– the Japanese were landing troops there
– as they went north, they passed through an area where the Philippine Scouts had fought the Japanese
– they saw body parts and discarded equipment everywhere
– on a ridge above the gulf, they saw Japanese ships and troops landing
– many of the tankers wanted to open fire on them
– instead, they were ordered to withdraw
– from this time on, the tanks served as a rearguard
– held a position until the infantry had passed and then followed them
– set up roadblocks at preselected spots
– their job was to prevent the Japanese from surprising the infantry
– the next morning, they often found themselves behind Japanese lines
– 22 December 1941 – first tank battle
– tanks make run to Damortis
– tanks supported 26th Cavalry
– 26th Cavalry did not want tank support
– 71st Division Commander said that they would clutter up their action
– 23/24 December 1941
– operating north of the Agno River
– main bridge at Carmen blown
– tank battalions made end runs to get south of Agno River
– 24 December 1941
– tank battalions held a line along the south bank of Agno River
– 192nd held the left side of the line from west of Carmen (on Route 3)
– critical points – held the position for 24 hours
– 25/26 December 1941 – tank battalions organized tank defenses
– 192nd held the line from Carmen Route 3 to Tayug  to the northeast of San Quentin
– critical points held by tanks
– some tanks only in radio contact with each other
– ordered to hold the position until 5:00 A.M. – 27 December 1941
– 26/27 December 1941
– 192nd tanks ordered to form a new defensive line from Carmen to Lumigan
– destroyed most of 44,000 gallons of 100-octane gas
– 27 December 1941 – withdrew from the line that night
– formed new line: Santa Ignacia – Gerona – Santo Tomas – San Jose
– 27/28 December 1941 – withdrew
– formed a new line: Tarlac to Cabanatuan
– 28/29 December 1941
– dropped back and formed: Bamban Gapan Line
– 29/30 December 1941
– established a new line behind Bamban River
– ordered to hold until they received further orders
– 31 December 1941/1 January 1942
– tanks covered the area north of Calumpit
– 2 January 1942 – tanks ordered to Lyac Junction to covering position
– cover withdrawal toward Bataan
– 192nd covered northwest flanks
– 194th withdrew covered by 192nd
– 6 January 1942
– tank battalions held the line between Culis and Hermosa
– 6/7 January 1942
– 192nd covered the withdrawal of 194th
– 192nd last American unit to enter Bataan
– bridge was blown after it crossed
Battle of Bataan – 7 January 1942 – 9 April 1942
– 8 January 1942 – composite tank company created
– held East Coast Road open
– under constant enemy fire
– tank battalions bivouac just south of Pilar-Bagac Road
– tank companies reduced to 10 tanks
– HQ Company and 17th Ordnance Company did needed maintenance on tanks
– 13 January 1942 – tanks dropped back to battalion bivouac
– 20 January 1942 – withdrawal from Abucay-Hacienda Line
– 192nd covered East Coast Road
– 25 January 1942 – Balanga-the Cadre Road-Bani Bani Road
Note: 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.”
– 25/26 January 1942
– Balanga – bridge battalion was to use destroyed by artillery fire
– the battalion had to use alternate roads west of Balanga
– 28 January 1942 – beach duty
– 192nd from Pandan Point to Limay
– also was suppose to support sub-sectors A and B
– during the day, the tanks remained under the jungle canopy
– at night the tanks were moved onto beaches
– 31 January 1942
– half-tracks patrolled roads
– 1 February 1942
– tanks and half-tracks take on protecting three airfields
– Battle of the Pockets
– Japanese attacked and were pushed back creating two pockets behind the main defensive line
– tanks sent in to wipe out pockets
– tanks would enter pocket one at a time
– another tank would not enter until the tank that was relieved left the pocket
– the first method used against Japanese
– three Filipino soldiers rode on the back of tanks
– as tank passed over a Japanese foxhole, Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole
– one of the three hand grenades usually exploded
– the second method used against Japanese
– the tank would park with one track over the foxhole
– tank driver gave power to the other track causing the tank to go in a circle
– tank ground its way into the ground
– March 1942
– Japanese had been fought to a standstill
– suffered from the same illnesses affecting Americans
– 3 April 1942
– fresh troops brought in from Singapore
– launch a major offense
– 6 April 1942
– four tanks sent to support the 45th Philippine Infantry and 75th Infantry, Philippine Scouts
– one tank knocked out by the anti-tank fire at the junction of Trails 8 and 6
– other tanks covered withdraw
– 3rd Platoon sent up the west coast road
– near Mount Samat ran into heavy Japanese force
– the tanks withdrew to Marivales
– C Company was ordered to the west side of the defensive line and ordered to reinforce the east side of the line
– the company could not reach the assigned area because the roads were blocked with retreating units
– 8 April 1942
– B and D Companies and A Company, 194th, were preparing a suicide attack to stop the Japanese advance
– 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 goes out to be prepared to destroy all equipment of use to the Japanese
“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.”
– that evening that Capt. Fred Bruni, the commanding officer of HQ Company, called his men together
– he informed them that they would surrender to the Japanese the next morning at 7:00 
– they were instructed to destroy any weapons or supplies that the Japanese could use.
– the sergeants were instructed to destroy the company’s three tanks
– they were told not to destroy the company’s trucks
– As he spoke, his voice choked and he turned away from his men for a moment.
– he turned around and face them again and emphasized that they would surrender together.
– Somehow, Bruni came up with enough bread and pineapple juice for the men
– they had what he called, “Our last supper.”
– 10:30 P.M. – the decision made to send white flag across the battle line
– 11:40 P.M. – ammunition dumps were blown up
– 12:00 Midnight – B, D, and A Company, 194th, were ordered to stand down
– At 2:oo A.M. April 9, Gen. King sent a jeep under a white flag north
– it carried Colonel Everett C. Williams, Col. James V. Collier, and Major Marshall Hurt
– their job was to meet with the Japanese commander about the terms of surrender
 – The white flag was bedding from A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion
– the driver was from the Provisional Tank Group
– 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
– 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 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
– he informed King that he reported his coming to negotiate a surrender 
– he stated an officer from the Japanese command would arrive to do the negotiations
– King was told Japanese troops would not attack for thirty minutes while he decided what he would do
– after a half-hour, no Japanese officer had arrived from their headquarters
– the Japanese attack resumed
– King sent Col. Collier and Maj. Hunt back to his command 
– ordered 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
– the Japanese officer – through his interpreter accused King of declining to surrender unconditionally
– 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
Prisoner of War:
– 9 April 1942
– Death March
– Mariveles – POWs start the march at the southern tip of Bataan
– POWs ran past Japanese artillery firing at Corregidor
– Americans on Corregidor returned fire
– San Fernando – POWs put into small wooden boxcars
– each boxcar could hold eight horses or forty men
– 100 POWs packed into each car
– POWs who died remained standing since they could not fall to the floors
– Capas – dead fell to the floors as living left boxcars
– POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O’Donnell
POW Camps:
– Philippine Islands:
– Camp O’Donnell
– 1 April 1942 – unfinished Filipino training base Japanese put into use as a POW camp
– Japanese believed the camp could hold 15,000 to 20,000 POWs
– POWs searched upon arrival at camp
– those found with Japanese money were accused of looting
– sent to the guardhouse
– over several days, gunshots heard southeast of the camp
– POWs who had money on them had been executed
– Japanese took away any extra clothing from POWs as they entered the camp and refused to return it
– since no water was available to wash clothing, the POWs threw soiled clothing away
– clothing was taken from dead
– few of the POWs in the camp hospital had clothing
– POWs were not allowed to bathe
– only one water spigot for the entire camp
– POWs waited 2½ hours to 8 hours to get a drink
– water frequently turned off by Japanese guards and the next man in line waited as long as 4 hours for the water to be turned on again
– mess kits could not be cleaned
– POWs had to carry water 3 miles from a river to cook their meals
– second water spigot installed a week after POWs arrived
– slit trenches overflowed since many of the POWs had dysentery
– flies were everywhere including in camp kitchens and food
– the camp hospital had no water, soap, or disinfectant
– the senior POW doctor wrote a list of medicines he wanted to treat the sick and was told by the camp commandant, Capt. Yoshio Tsuneyoshi, never to
  write another letter
– Tsuneyoshi said that all he wanted to know about the American POWs were their names and numbers when they died
– refused to allow a truckload of medicine sent by the Archbishop of Manila into the camp
– 95% of the medicine sent by the Philippine Red Cross was taken by the Japanese for their own use
– POWs in the camp hospital lay on the floor elbow to elbow
– operations on POWs were performed with mess kit knives
– only one medic out of six medics – assigned to care for 50 sick POWs – was well enough to work
– as many as 50 POWs died each day
– each morning dead were found everywhere in the camp and stacked up under the hospital
– the dead were moved to one area under the hospital
– the ground in that area was scraped and covered with lime to clean it
– the dead were moved to the cleaned area and the area where they had lain was scraped and covered with lime
– the dead were usually not buried for two or three days
– work details: if a POW could walk, he was sent out on a work detail
– POWs on burial detail often had dysentery and malaria
– Japanese opened a new POW camp to lower the death rate
– during May, his family received a message from the War Department

“Dear Mrs. J.Serpell:

        “According to War Department records, you have been designated as the emergency addressee if Corporal Edward P. Serpell, 35,101,649, 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) 
                                                                                                                                                                       Major General
                                                                                                                                                                   The Adjutant General”

– 1 June 1942 – POWs formed detachments of 100 men
– POWs marched out the gate and marched toward Capas
– Filipino people gave POWs small bundles of food
– the guards did not stop them
– At Capas, the POWs were put into steel boxcars and rode the cars to Calumpit
– the train stopped at Calumpit and switched onto the line to Cabanatuan
– POWs disembarked the train at 6:00 P.M. and put into a schoolyard
– fed rice and onion soup
– Cabanatuan
– original name – Camp Pangatian
– Philippine Army Base built for 91st Philippine Army Division
– put into use by the Japanese as a POW camp
– actually three camps
– Camp 1: POWs from Camp O’Donnell sent there in an attempt to lower the death rate
– Camp 2: two miles away
– all POWs moved from there because of a lack of water
– later used for Naval POWs
– Camp 3: six miles from Camp 2
– POWs from Corregidor and from hospitals sent there
– camp created to keep Corregidor POWs separated from Bataan POWs
– Corregidor POWs were in better shape
– 30 October 1942 – POWs from Camp 3 consolidated into Camp 1
– Camp Administration:
– the Japanese left POWs to run the camp on their own
– Japanese entered camp when they had a reason
– POWs patrolled fence to prevent escapes
– Note: men who attempted to escape were recaptured
– Japanese beat them for days
– executed them
– Blood Brother Rule
– POWs put into groups of ten
– if one escaped the others would be executed
– housed in the same barracks
– worked on details together
– Barracks:
– each barracks held 50 men
– often held between 60 and 120 men
– slept on bamboo slats without mattresses, covers, and mosquito netting
– diseases spread easily
– no showers
– Morning Roll Call:
– stood at attention
– frequently beaten over their heads for no reason
– when POWs lined up for roll call, it was a common practice for Japanese guards, after the POWs lined up, to kick the POWs in their shins with their
  hobnailed boots because they didn’t like the way the POWs looked
– Work Details:
Work Details:
– Airfield Detail:
– Japanese built an airfield for fighters
– POWs cut grass, removed dirt, and leveled ground
– at first moved dirt in wheelbarrows
– later pushed mining cars
– Airfield Detail:
– Air Raid
– in charge
– usually fair but unpredictable
– had to watch him
– Donald Duck
– always talking
– sounded like the cartoon character
– unpredictable – beat POWs
– POWs told him that Donald Duck was a big American movie star
– at some point, he saw a Donald Duck cartoon
– POWs stayed away from him when he came back to camp
– Work Day: 7:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.
– worked 6 days a week
– had Sunday off
– Other Details:
– work details sent out to cut wood for POW kitchens and plant rice
– they also were frequently hit with a pick handle, for no reason, as they counted off
– POWs on the rice planting detail were punished by having their faces pushed into the mud and stepped on to drive them deeper into the mud
– the POWs had to go into a shed to get the tools, as they came out, they were hit on their heads
– if the guards on the detail decided the POW wasn’t doing what he should be doing, he was beaten
– many POWs on details were able to smuggle in medicine, food, and tobacco into the camp
– Burial Detail
– POWs worked in teams of four
– carried 4 to 6 dead to the cemetery at a time in the litter
– a grave contained from 15 to 20 bodies
– 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
– 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
– medical staff had little to no medicine to treat sick
– many deaths from disease caused by malnutrition
– In July 1942, the family 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, Corporal Edward P. Serpell 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.”          

– 7 August 1942 – a POW escaped from the camp 
– 17 September 1942 – he was captured and placed in solitary confinement a
– he was beaten over the head with an iron bar by a Japanese sergeant
– Col. Mori, would parade him around the camp
– used the man as an example as he lectured the POWs
– the man wore a sign that read, “Example of an Escaped Prisoner”
– 12 September 1942 – three POWs escaped 
– 21 September 1942 – recaptured
– their feet were tied together
– their hands were crossed behind their backs and tied with ropes
– a long rope was tied around their wrists and they were suspended from a rafter
– their toes barely touched the ground causing their arms to bear all the weight of their bodies
– beaten while hanging from rafters
– the punishment lasted three days
– they were cut from the rafter and they were tied hand and foot
– they were placed in the cooler for 30 days on a diet was rice and water
– finally released
– 29 September 1942 – three POWs executed
– caught attempting to escape
– Americans patrol stopped them at the fence
– the Japanese heard the commotion
– three men were beaten for 2½ hours
– one so bad his jaw was broken
– the three were tied to posts by the main gate
– their clothes were torn off them
– beaten on and off for the next 48 hours
– anyone passing them was expected to urinate on them
– after three days they were cut down and thrown into a truck
– they were taken to a clearing in sight of the camp and shot
– 14 October 1942 – Japanese claimed food rations improved
– 550 grams of rice, 100 grams of meat, 330 grams of vegetables, 20 grams of fat, 20 grams of sugar, 15 grams of salt, and 1 gram of tea
– at some point, 50 grams of mongo beans replaced some of the rice
– sick POWs also received an additional 50 grams of meat
– Meals were actually
– wet rice and rice coffee for breakfast
– Pechi green soup and rice for lunch
– Mongo bean soup, Carabao meat, and rice for dinner
– the farm and airfield
– 4 November 1942 – 1300 POWs selected to be sent to Japan
– Japanese issued each man 1 pair of shoes, 1 undershirt, and 1 blue denim uniform
– told to put on their best clothing
– marched to a ball field
– told to remove clothing and issued Japanese clothing
– 11 November 1942 – deep latrines dug in camp
– at least 18 feet deep
– 12 November 1942 – Fr. Bruttenbruck – a German Catholic priest brought packages for POWs and medicine
– 15 November 1942 – 100 POWs worked in the hospital area of the camp
– cut grass, dug drainage ditches, dug latrines, dug sump holes
– 20 November 1942 – Pvt. Donald K. Russell – left camp at 9:30 P.M.
– got past guards
– at 12:30 A.M. – caught trying to reenter the camp
– had a large bag of canned goods
– 21 November 1942 -12:30 P.M. – he was shot
– 23 November 1942 – Farm Detail
– Japanese wanted 750 healthy POWs for farm work 
– wanted to get the farm started
– there were only 603 healthy officers and enlisted men in the camp
– from this time on, they wanted 1000 men daily for the details
– POWs cleared land and grew camotes, cassava, taro, sesame, and various greens
– Japanese took what was grown
– each day, 150 POWs planted corn and cleared fields with picks and shovels on the camp farm
– they cleaned ant hills that were 3 feet to 4 feet high from the fields by digging them out
– the red ants were about ¾ of an inch long
– Guards:
– Big Speedo – spoke little English
– in charge of the detail
– fair in his treatment of POWs
– spoke little English
– to get POWs to work faster said, “speedo”
– Little Speedo
– also used “speedo” when he wanted POWs to work faster
– he punished the POWs by making them kneel on stones
– Smiley
– a Korean guard
– always smiling
– could not be trusted
– meanest of guards
– this was the worse detail to work
– 16 November 1942 – Cpl. Peter Lanianuskas shot while attempting to escape
– POWs believed he was really executed
– 26 November 1942 – Thanksgiving Day
– POWs did not work because the guards had been out all night chasing guerrillas
– meal – double meat ration and mongo beans
– 28 November 1942 – it was noted the POWs were receiving carabao meat every day
– 850 blankets were also issued, but a large number of men still did not have blankets
– 1 December 1942 – meals:
– breakfast – wet rice and rice coffee for breakfast
– lunch – pichi green soup and rice
– dinner – mongo bean soup with carabao meat and rice
– 12 December 1942 to 19 December 1942 – only 20 POWs died in the camp that week
– 14 December 1942 – Fr. Bruttenbruck – a German Catholic priest brought a truckload of medicine to camp
– turned away because he did not have the correct paperwork
– 19 December 1942 – Red Cross packages arrived in the camp
– POWs were told it was for two months
– 21 December 1942 – 1000 POWs put to work on farm detail and other details
– 200 worked on the farm
– 24 December 1942 – Fr. Bruttenbruck arrived with two trucks of presents for the POWs individual men
– each POW received a gift bag
– Christmas
– each POW received the POWs received 2½ Red Cross boxes
– each box milk in some form, corn beef, fish, stew beef, sugar, meat and vegetable, tea, and chocolate
– the POWs also received bulk corn beef, sugar, meat and vegetables, stew, raisins, dried fruit, and cocoa which they believed would last them three months
– POWs also received packages from Fr. Bruttenbruck
– contained: fish, soap, cigarettes, cigars, and tobacco
– they were given four days off of work
– 11 January 1943 – POWs watched Japanese dive bombers attack a barrio
– it was located 30 kilometers from the camp
– some of the explosions were loud
– heard scuttlebutt that 102 Filipino men, women, and children had been killed during the attack
– also heard a rumor that half of an area on Cabanatuan that had warehouses had been burned down by guerrillas
– in retaliation for the attack
– February 1943 – multiple details left camp
– some details were small while others had 1255 to 1450 POWs on them
– 3 February 1943 – his name was listed by the War Department as being a POW in the Philippines


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:

        “Cpl.Edward P. Serpell, 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
                                                                                                                                                                   “Colonel, CMP
                                                                                                                                                                   “Chief Information Bureau

– 7 February 1943 – POWs received Christmas telegrams
– 11 February 1943 – POWs watched movies
– Japanese propaganda newsreels and the Marx Brothers movie “Room Service”
– 12 February 1943 – noted that no POW had died in 8 days
– three POWs died the next day
– also ordered all POWs to turn in illegal radios
– 22 February 1943 – Japanese issued blankets to POWs who did not have one
– 3 March 1943 – a program started to stop the spread of dysentery
– POWs received two biscuits and some cigarettes for catching flies and rodents
– POWs had caught 320 rats and 12 million flies
– 6 April 1943- two POWs escaped
– had an hour headstart on guards
– other POWs punished by having movies night taken away that night
– the two men were recaptured
– both men were shot outside the POWs’ barracks
– 11 April 1943
– work schedule changed
– 5:30 A.M. – reveille
– 6:00 A.M. – 7:00 A.M. – breakfast
– 10:30 A.M. – returned to camp
– Noon – lunch
– 1:00 P.M. – 6:00 P.M. – work
– 6:30 P.M. – dinner
– 7:00 P.M. – roll call
– 9:00 P.M. – lol call again – lights out
– 14 April 1943 – another POW attempted to escape
– he was on the guard detail to prevent escapes
– caught by Japanese 
– 11 July 1943 – a POW named Conley escaped
– 11:00 PM, POWs heard a lot of noise
– the next morning the POWs saw his body in the camp morgue
– Conley’s jaw had been crushed as was the top of his skull, his teeth had all been knocked out
– his left leg had been crushed
– he had been bayoneted in the eyes and scrotum
– July 1943 – 500 names posted
– 22 July 1943 – the POWs were issued new shoes, a suit of “Philippine Blues”
– also received – 2 cans of corn beef and 3 cans of milk
– informed they would be taking a 21-day trip
– the detachment left the camp that night
– when they arrived in Manila, they were used in the Japanese propaganda film The Dawn of Freedom
– film supposedly showed how Americans mistreated the Filipinos
– POWs sent to Port Area of Manila and sent to Japan
– August 1943 – officers were put to work on the camp farm
– POWs noted that the guards were now combat troops
– treated the POWs better
– saw the POWs as brother soldiers
– names posted of POWs being sent to Japan
Hell Ship:
Taga Maru
– the ship was also known as the Coral Maru
– Sailed: 20 September 1943
– Arrived: 23 September 1943 – Takao, Formosa
– Sailed: 26 September 1943
– Arrived: 5 October 1943 – Moji, Japan
– 70 of the 850 POWs on board died
– 6 October 1943 – POWs rode a train to the POW camp
POW Camp :
– Japan:
Hirohata #12-B
– Camp:
– less than two acres in area
– 200′ by 400′ in area
– surrounded by a 12′ high wooden fence that was topped with bamboo pointed bamboo spears and barbwire
– Housing:
– POWs housed into 50′ by 100′ barracks were not insulated and numerous windows
– slept on straw mattresses on wooden platforms
– the lower platform was 16′ above the floor
– 240 POWs lived in each barracks
– Latrines
– two 25′ by 50′ latrines in the camp
– Meals:
– prepared in a 20′ by 40′ building
– ten men assigned to the camp kitchen
– cooked food in 13 cauldrons
– rice and watery soup main meal
– POWs ate in barracks on tables in the aisles
– Red Cross food never issued to POWs
– Hospital:
– An American doctor in charge of the hospital but his diagnosis were overruled by a Japanese corpsman
– corpsman ordered POWs with fevers to work
– Red Cross medical supplies seldom issued to POWs
– Clothing:
– Red Cross clothing and shoes were misappropriated by Japanese
– Work:
– 30 POWs worked at the camp doing camp maintenance
– 400 POWs worked at the Japan Iron Works Company
– marched to and from ironworks
– POWs shoveled coal, fired furnaces, unloaded coke, loaded pig iron onto trains and ships, unloaded iron ore from trains and ships
– POW worked from 7:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.
– Punishment:
– Japanese POWs for slightest reasons
– POWs beaten with belts, rope, clubs, fists
– hit in faces with belts
– had water thrown on them and made to stand in sub-zero temperatures
– faces pushed underwater in troughs and hit in the back of the head with clubs when they attempted to pull face out of the water
– One guard drilled the POWs and beat them if they missed a step even though the orders were being given in Japanese.
– for stealing rice, 16 POWs were lined up and beaten in their faces with a wide, doubled over belt
– another 40 POWs were made to kneel for 8 hours
– every POW in the camp was made to kneel for 5 hours because a rule was violated
– for stealing rice, 16 POWs were lined up and beaten in their faces with a wide, doubled over belt
– another 40 POWs were made to kneel for 8 hours
– every POW in the camp was made to kneel for 5 hours because a rule was violated
– while Ed was in camp POWs were beaten for stealing rice while unloading a ship
Liberated: 9 September 1945
– POWs were sent to Yokohama and boarded hospital ships
– on the ships, they were given medical examinations and processed
– at that time it was determined where the former POW would be sent
– returned to the Philippines
– 26 September 1945 – his family learned he had been freed

“Mr. and Mrs. John Serpell: The secretary of war has asked me to inform you that your son, Cpl. Serpell Edward P. was returned to military control Sept 9 and is being returned to the United States within the near future. He will be given the opportunity to communicate with you upon his arrival if he has not already done so.

“E. F. Witsell

“Acting Adjutant General of the Army”

– Transport:
S.S. Simon Bolivar
– Sailed: 29 or 30 September 1945 – Manila
– Arrived: – 21 October 1945 – San Francisco, California
– all the POWs were sent to Letterman General Hospital for treatment
– sent to a veteran’s hospital closer to home
– Ashford General Hospital – White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
Promoted: Staff Sergeant
Discharged: Not Known
Married: Barbara Hebbard – 7 February 1953
Divorced: 31 December 1957
– Edward Serpell never remarried because he was too haunted by memories of his war experiences
– 14 November 1985 – Louisville, Kentucky
– Funeral: St. Mary Catholic Church
– Buried: Cave Hill Cemetery – Louisville, Kentucky – 16 November 1985

Default Gravesite 1


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