Swearingen, 2nd Lt. Russell L.

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2nd Lt. Russell Leroy Swearingen
Born: 27 June 1914 – Groton, South Dakota
Parents: William Swearingen & Cora Carper-Swearingen
Siblings: 3 sisters, 5 brothers
Married: Eleanor H. Palmer – 30 June 1939
Children: 1 daughter, 1 son, 1 step-daughter, 1 step-son
Home: 1305 Pine Street – Brainerd, Minnesota
Occupation: chief caretaker – armory
Enlisted: Minnesota National Guard
Inducted:
– U. S. Army
– 10 February 1941 – Brainard, Minnesota
Training:
-Fort Lewis, Washington
– went to Ft. Lewis as a Staff Sergeant
– described as constantly raining during the winter
– many men ended up in the camp hospital with colds
– Typical Day – after they arrived at Ft. Lewis
– 6:00 A.M. – first call
– 6:30 A.M. – Breakfast
– During this time the soldiers made their cots, policed the grounds around the barracks, swept the floors of their barracks, and performed other duties.
– 7:30 A.M. to 11:30 A.M. – drill
– 11:30 A.M. – 1:00 P.M. – mess
– 1:00 P.M. – 4:30 P.M. – drill
– 5:00 P.M. – retreat
– 5:30 P.M. – mess
– men were free after this
– later the members of the battalion received training in tank maintenance, automotive maintenance, radio, and other jobs
– these men were sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky
Duties:
– Chief Mechanic
Officers Candidates School
– commissioned 2nd Lieutenant
Unit:
– 194th Tank Battalion
– assigned to HQ Company – transportation officer

Note: On August 15, 1941, orders were issued to the company, for duty in the Philippines because of an event that happened during the summer. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots noticed something odd. He took his plane down and identified a buoy in the water. He came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line for 30 miles to the northwest, in the direction of a Japanese occupied island, with a large radio transmitter, hundreds of miles away. The squadron continued its flight plane and flew south to Mariveles and then returned to Clark Field. By the time the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.

The next morning, another squadron was sent to the area and found that the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat which was seen making its way toward shore. Since communication between and Air Corps and Navy was poor, the boat was not intercepted. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.

Overseas Duty:
Ship: S.S. President Calvin Coolidge
– Boarded: Monday – 8 September 1941 – 3:00 P.M.
– Sailed: 9:00 P.M. – same day
– Arrived: Honolulu, Hawaii – Saturday – 13 September 1941 – 7:00 A.M.
– Sailed: 5:00 P.M. – same day
– sailed south away from main shipping lanes
– escorted by the heavy cruiser, U.S.S. Astoria, and the U.S.S. Guadalupe which was a fleet replenishment oiler
– smoke was seen on the horizon several times
– cruiser intercepted ships
– ships from friendly countries
– Tuesday, 16 September 1941 – ships crossed International Dateline
– became Thursday, 18 September 1941
– Arrived: Manila – Friday – 26 September 1941
– disembarked ship – 3:00 P.M.
– taken by bus to Fort Stotsenburg
– Ft. Stotsenburg Philippines lived in tents
– lived in tents upon arriving
– 15 November 1941 – moved into barracks
– the barracks walls were open and screened three feet from the bottom
– above that, the walls were woven bamboo that allowed the air to pass through
– washing – the lucky man washed by a faucet with running water
Work Day:
– 7:00 to 11:30 A.M. and from 1:30 to 2:30 P.M. 
Recreation:
– the soldiers spent their free time bowling, going to the movies,
– they also played horseshoes, softball, badminton, or threw a football around
– on Wednesday afternoons, they went swimming
– they also went to Mt. Aarayat National Park and swam in the swimming pool there that was filled with mountain water
– men were allowed to go to Manila in small groups
– they also went to canoeing at Pagsanjan Falls in their swimsuits
– the country was described as being beautiful
Engagements:
– Battle of Luzon – 8 December 1941 – 7 January 1942
– 8 December 1941
– Russ heard the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor on the radio while he was shaving
– he went to the officers’ mess and told the other 194th officers
– told Lt. Col. Ernest Miller, of the attack, when he arrived at breakfast
– lived through the Japanese attack on the airfield
– his maintenance section went to a prearranged area and watched the attack on the airfield
– after attack 194th sent to a bivouac three kilometers north of Clark Field
– from there they were sent to Barrio of San Joaquin on the Malolos Road
– 12 December 1941
– shot down Japanese Zero
– moved to new bivouac south to San Fernando near Calumpit Bridge
– arrived 6:00 A.M.
– C Company ordered to Southern Luzon
– 15 December 1941
– C Company holding Tagaytay Bridge – South Luzon
– spent most of the time chasing down Fifth Columnists
– he sent home a cablegram that said, “Merry Christmas. Friends and I are fine.”
– 24 December 1941
– the company moved over Taal Road to Santo Tomas
– bivouacked near San Paolo
– 25 December 1941
– sent to assist in operations around Lucena, Pagbilao, and Lucban
– 26/27 December 1941
– defended in Southern Luzon near Lucban
– supported Philippine Army
– 29/30 December 1941
– new line at Bamban River established
– tank battalions held the line until ordered to withdraw
– 30 December 1941
– covered withdraw of Philippine Divisions
– it was around this time that the company rejoined the battalion
– 2 January 1942
– both tank battalions ordered to withdrawal to Lyac Junction
– 194th withdrew there on Highway 7
– 5 January 1942
– rejoined rest of 194th at Guagua
– took position on the road between Sexmoan and Lubao with five SPMs
– ambushed a Japanese force of 750 to 800 attempting to cut the highway
– Japanese lost half their force
– Labao was burning when tanks left the area
– 6 January 1942
– Remedios – a new defensive line established along a dry creek bed
– 1:50 A.M. – Japanese attempted to infiltrate the line
– bright moon made them easy to see
– tanks opened up on them
– Japanese laid down smoke which blew back into them
– 3:00 A.M. – Japanese broke off the attack
– 6/7 January 1942 – tank battalions withdraw across a bridge at Culis Creek at night
– 194th withdraw across a bridge covered by 192nd
– bridge destroyed after 192nd crossed bridge
– Battle of Bataan – 7 January 1942 – 9 April 1942
– 8 January 1942
– composite tank company made up of tanks from the 192nd and 194th sent to protect East Coast Road north of Hermosa
– their job was to keep the East Road open north of Hermosa and prevent the Japanese from driving into Bataan before the main battle line had been
  formed
– the remainder of tanks ordered to bivouac for night south of Aubucay-Hacienda Road
– tankers had been fighting for a month without a rest
– tanks also needed overdue maintenance
– 17th Ordnance repaired tanks
– all tank companies reduced to ten tanks
– three per tank platoon
– sent to reopen Moron Road so General Segunda’s forces could withdraw
– tanks knock out an anti-tank gun
– two tanks disabled by landmines but recovered
– mission abandoned
– Gen. Segunda’s troops escaped using beach but lost their heavy equipment
– 12 January 1942
– C Company, with D Company, 192nd, sent to Cadre Road
– a forward position with little alert time
– 13 January 1942
– mines planted by ordnance prevented them from reaching Cadre Road
– returned to battalion
– 16 January 1942 – Bagac
– sent to open Moron Road so General Segunda’s forces could move south
– at the Moron Road and Road Junction 59, the tanks moved forward knocking out an anti-tank gun
– two tanks were lost to landmines but towed out
– mission abandoned
– Segunda’s forces escaped along beach losing its heavy equipment
– 20 January 1942
-west of Bani Bani Road – tanks were sent to save the 31st Infantry command post
– 24 January 1942
– tanks order to Hacienda Road in support of troops
– landmines planted by ordnance prevented them from reaching the road
– 26 January 1942 – Bani Bani Road
– Swearingen picked up the nickname “Kid Marathon”
– He and a driver had come up the road with a wrecker parked it, he got out and began walking up the road at the same time, the battalion was
   ordered to withdraw from their positions suddenly the tanks began speeding past him in the opposite direction
   Miller’s half-track was the last vehicle and sped passed Swearingen. Swearingen ran after the half-track yelling, “Hey, you guys, wait
   for me!” Miller’s half-track stopped and waited for him. Swearingen had a smile on his face that went from ear to ear.
– March 1942
– Two tanks were bogged down in the mud. The tankers were working to get them out. Japanese Regiment entered the area. Lt. Col. Miller ordered the
   tanks and artillery to fire at point-blank range. Miller ran from tank to tank directing fire wiped out Japanese regiment
– 3 April 1942
– Japanese launch new offensive
– tanks sent into various sectors to stop the Japanese advance
– 6 April 1942
– four tanks sent to support 45th Philippine Infantry and 75th Infantry, Philippine Scouts
– one tank knocked out by anti-tank fire at the junction of Trails 8 & 6
– other tanks covered withdraw
– 3rd Platoon sent up the west coast road
– near Mount Samat ran into heavy Japanese force
– the tanks withdrew to Marivales
– 8 April 1942
– Gen. Edward P. King decided that further resistance was futile since approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight
– he estimated they would last one more day
– In addition, he had over 6,000 troops who sick or wounded and 40,000 civilians who he feared would be massacred
– His troops were on one-quarter rations, and even at that ration, he had two days of food left.
– 6:30 P.M. – order goes out to be prepared to destroy all equipment of use to the Japanese
– 10:30 P.M. – decision made to send white flag across the battle line
– 11:40 P.M. – ammunition dumps were blown up
– At 2:oo A.M. April 9, Gen. King sent a jeep under a white flag carrying Colonel Everett C. Williams, Col. James V. Collier and Major Marshall Hurt to meet
   with the Japanese commander about terms of surrender.
 – The white flag was bedding from A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion
– Shortly after daylight Collier and Hunt returned with word of the appointment
– the tankers received this message over their radios at 6:45 A.M. – 9 April 1942
– circled tanks and fired an armor-piercing shell into each tank’s engine
– opened gasoline cocks and dropped grenades into the crew compartment
– Gen. King with his two aides, Maj. Cothran and Captain Achille C. Tisdelle Jr. got into a jeep carrying a large white flag
– They were followed by another jeep – also flying another large white flag – with Col. Collier and Maj. Hurt in it
– As the jeeps made their way north they were strafed and small bombs were dropped by a Japanese plane
– The drivers of both jeeps and the jeeps were provided by the tank group and both men managed to avoid the bullets
– The strafing ended when a Japanese reconnaissance plane ordered the fighter pilot to stop strafing
– About 10:00 A.M. the jeeps reached Lamao where they were received by a Japanese Major General who informed King that he reported his coming to
   negotiate a surrender and that an officer from the Japanese command would arrive to do the negotiations
– The Japanese officer also told him that his troops would no attack for thirty minutes while King decided what he would do
– After a half-hour, no Japanese officer had arrived from their headquarters and the Japanese attack had resumed. King sent Col. Collier and Maj. Hunt back
   to his command with instructions that any unit inline with the Japanese advance should fly white flags
– Shortly after this was done a Japanese colonel and interpreter arrived. King was told the officer was Homma’s Chief of Staff and he had come to discuss
   King’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
– he was accused of declining to surrender unconditionally
– At one point King stated he had enough trucks and gasoline to carry his troops out of Bataan
– He was told that the Japanese would handle the movement of the prisoners
– The two men talked back and forth until the colonel said through the interpreter, “The Imperial Japanese Army are not barbarians.” 
– King found no choice but to accept him at his word
– 6:45 A.M. – the order “CRASH” was sent for equipment to be destroyed
– 9 April 1942
– circled tanks and fired an armor-piercing shell into each t tank’s engine
– opened gasoline cocks and dropped grenades into the crew compartment
Prisoner of War:
– 9 April 1942
– received order to destroy equipment and report to kilometer marker 168.2.
– Provisional Tank Group Headquarters
– Japanese officers told Col. Ernest Miller to keep them there until ordered to move
– 10 April 1942
– 7:00 P.M. – started the march from Provisional Tank Group headquarters
– 3:00 A.M. – halted and rested for an hour
– 4:00 A.M. – resume march
– at times slipped on remains of the dead who had been killed by Japanese shelling
– 11 April 1942
– 8:00 A.M. – reached Lamao and the POWs were allowed to forage for food
– 9:00 A.M. – resumed march
– Noon – reached Limay and the main road
– officers, majors and up, separated from lower-ranking officers and enlisted men
– Death March
– 4:00 P.M officers put on trucks
– officers arrived at Balanga
– Japanese find a handgun in the field bag of an officer
– he was clubbed and bayoneted
– because of this, they were not fed
– Dusk – officers ordered to form ranks and marched
– marched through Abucay and Samal
– 12 April 1942
– 3:00 A.M. – officers reached Orani
– herded into a fenced-in area and ordered to lie down
– in the morning found they had been lying in human waste
– latrine in one corner was crawling with maggots
– Noon – fed rice and salt
– first meal
– Afternoon – lower-ranking officers and enlisted men arrive at Orani
– 6:30 P.M. – ordered to form 100 men detachments
– POWs marched at faster pace fewer breaks
– when given break, the POWs sat on the road
– North of Hermosa the POWs reached pavement made the march easier
– at some point, Russ became desperate for a drink of water
– went up to an artisan well and filled his canteen
– as he was filling it, a Japanese guard aimed his rifle at him
– he ran back into line, changed hats, and someone gave him sunglasses
– he also got in front of Lt. Carroll Guin 
– the guard looked for him for an hour before giving up
– 13 April 1942
– 2:00 A.M. – POWs were given an hour rest on the road
– those who attempt to lay down are jabbed with bayonets
– POWs march through Layac and Lubao
– rains – POWs drank as much as they could
– 4:30 P.M. – reached San Fernando
– POWs put in groups of 200 to be fed
– one POW sent to get a box of rice for each group
– pottery jars of water given out the same way
– 14 April 1942
– 4:00 A.M. – POWs awakened
– formed detachments of 100 men and marched to train station
– POWs put into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane
– 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
– 9:00 A.M. – Capas – dead fell to the floors as living left boxcars
– as POWs formed ranks, Filipinos threw sugarcane to POWs
– also gave them water
– POWs walked last 8 kilometers to Camp O’Donnell
POW Camps:
– 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 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 for 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 Philippine Red Cross was taken by the Japanese for their own use
– as many as 50 POWs died each day
– each morning dead were found everywhere in the camp and stacked up under the hospital
– the ground under hospital 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
– 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
– to bury the dead, the POWs held the body down with a pole while it was covered with dirt
– the next day when they returned, the bodies often were sitting up in the graves or had been dug up by wild dogs
– POWs volunteered to go out on work details to get out of camp
– Cabanatuan
– original name – Camp Pangatian
– the camp had been opened to lower death rate among POWs
– Philippine Army Base built for 91st Philippine Army Division
– Japanese put the base into use as POW camp
– assigned to Barracks #29 – officer’s barracks
– “Blood Brother” rule implemented
– if one POW in the group of 10 escaped, the other nine would be killed
– work details sent out to cut wood for POW kitchens, plant rice, and farm
– when POWs lined up, it was a common practice for Japanese guards, after the POWs lined up, to kick the POWs in their shins with their hobnailed boots
– POWs hit across the top of their heads as they stood in line for roll call
– if the guards on the detail decided the POW wasn’t doing what he should be doing, he was beaten
– POWs on rice planting details went to a tool shed to get tools
– as they exited, the guards would hit them over their heads
– if a guard decided a POW was not working hard enough, he would shove the man’s face into the mud and step on his head driving the man’s face deeper
  into the mud
– 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
– men who attempted to escape and caught were executed
– daily POW meal – 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, sweet potato or corn
– Camp Hospital:
– 30 Wards
– each ward could hold 40 men
– frequently had 100 men in each
– two tiers of bunks
– sickest POWs on the bottom tier
– each POW had a 2 foot by 6-foot area to lie in
– 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 assigned to care for 50 sick POWs, in the hospital, was well enough to work
– 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
Hell Ship:
Nagato Maru
– Sailed: Manila – 4 November 1942
– Arrived: Takao, Formosa – 11 November 1942
– Sailed: 17 November 1942
– Arrived: Pescadores Islands – 17 November 1942
– Sailed: 18 November 1942
– Arrived: Keelung, Formosa – 18 November 1942
– Sailed: 20 November 1942
– Arrived: Moji, Japan – 24 November 1942
– 29 December 1942 – his family received word he was a Prisoner of War

“REPORT JUST RECEIVED THROUGH INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS STATES THAT YOUR HUSBAND SECOND LIEUTENANT RUSSELL L SWEARINGEN IS A PRISONER OF WAR OF THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT IN PHILIPPINE ISLANDS LETTER OF INFORMATION FOLLOWS FROM THE PROVOST MARSHALL GENERAL=
        “ULIO THE ADJUTANT GENERAL=”

– within days his wife received this letter from the War Department

“Eleanor Swearingen
1305 Pine Street
Brainerd

“The Provost Marshal General directs me to inform you that you may communicate with your husband, postage free, by following the inclosed instructions:

“It is suggested that you address him as follows:

“2nd Lt. Russell L. Swearingen, 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.

                                                                                                                                                “Sincerely

                                                                                                                                               Howard F. Bresee
                                                                                                                                               Colonel, CMP
                                                                                                                                               Chief Information Bureau”

POW Camps:
Tanagawa
– while a POW there he came down with diphtheria
– put in the diphtheria ward 
– the doctors had no medicine to treat the sick
Zentsuji
– on detail to pick grass to feed rabbits
– the Japanese ate the rabbits
– 17 December 1943 – he wrote a letter home that said

“Darling Wife and Children:

“Received your letter and package, dated Sept. 5, the first of December. Just can’t find the words to express my relief and gratitude in finding that the family is well and that I have a new baby daughter. I only wish I had a photograph of her.  May I join you in the not too distant future to make our home complete.

“Donnie must make his grades good and if he will d that I will buy him a new bicycle when I return. I am only awaiting the day when he and I can go fishing and hunting together.

“My health is excellent. I weigh 145 pounds. I am getting along fine this winter. The things I received in your package were just the things I needed.”

Rokuroshi 
– POWs cut down trees for rice paddies
– August 1943 – wife received a letter from him from Zentsuji Camp
– 30 October 1943 – wife received a second letter
– the day the war ended, he had the job of cleaning latrines
– a Japanese officer told him to go back to his barracks
– the Japanese officer said, “The Japanese government has ceased hostilities and want to re-establish world peace.”
Liberated: 7 September 1945
-returned to the Philippine Islands
Promoted: 1st Lieutenant
Transport:
U.S.S. Storm King
– Sailed: not known
– Arrived: San Francisco, California – 15 October 1945
– taken to Letterman General Hospital
Discharged: 26 September 1946
Occupation:
– operated his own appliance repair business
Died: 23 October 2001 – Crosby, Minnesota
Buried:
Lakewood Cemetery – Crosby, Minnesota
Plot: I 350

Default Gravesite 1

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