Sgt. Harold J. Vick was born in Stillwater, Oklahoma, on September 18, 1921. He was the second son of Joseph S. Vick and Elsie L. Ferguson-Vick. It appears he was called “J” by his friends. His parents divorced and his mother married George Frost and he became the step-brother of PFC James E. Frost. The family moved to 651 East Market Street, Alisal, California. It is known that he worked at a Shell Station, which he may have owned with his brother, at 630 East Alisal Street in Salinas.
The draft act took effect on October 16, 1940, and Harold joined the California National Guard in before it took effect so he did not have to register when it did. He was inducted into the U.S. Army on February 10, 1941, at Salinas Army Air Base. Before he went overseas, he married Wilma Sue Walker in June 1941.
The members of the company spent a week getting their equipment ready for movement to Fort Lewis, Washington, where it was joined by A Company from Brainerd, Minnesota, and B Company from Saint Joseph, Missouri. It was after arriving there that he was put in charge of the C Company’s reconnaissance platoon.
The weather at the camp was described as constantly rainy during the winter months. When they first arrived many men caught colds, pneumonia, and the flu and spent time in the fort’s hospital. The situation became bad enough that doctors went to the barracks to treat the men.
A typical day started at 6:00 A.M. with the first call followed at 6:30 with 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. From 7:30 to 11:30 A.M., the men had drill followed by lunch. They again had drill from 1:00 P.M. until 4:30 P.M. Evening retreat was at 5:00 P.M. and dinner was at 5:30 P.M. After this, the men were off duty except for those assigned to the guard detail who worked two hours on and four hours off during the night.
A canteen was located near their barracks and was visited often. There was also a movie theater on the base that they visited. The theater where the tanks were kept was not finished, but when it was, the tankers only had to cross the road to their tanks.
Saturdays the men had off, and many rode a bus 15 miles northeast to Tacoma which was the largest town nearest to the base. They also went to see the Tacoma Narrow Bridge which had collapsed in 1940. On Sundays, many of the men went to church, and services were held at different times for the different denominations.
One of the biggest problems for the tankers was that the regular Army seemed to have a problem with them since they were National Guardsmen. After arriving at the fort, they trained in whatever clothing they had. One day, while they were training three officers, on horseback, rode up and asked why they weren’t training in the proper uniforms. It was explained that what they were wearing was what they had. That afternoon, a truck loaded with army clothing showed up at the 194th’s barracks. As it turned out one of the officers was the chief of staff of the camp’s commander, the officer’s name was Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The battalion went on long reconnaissance with trucks and tanks and drove all over reservation following maps. They learned from observation what the land surrounding the fort looked like. The purpose of this training was to collect tank data which they would use later. They often had to live off the land during the training.
On April 30, 1941, the battalion went on an all-day march and ate dinner in woods brought to them by the cooks in the food trucks. The march was two hours one way and covered about 10 miles total. At one point the soldiers stopped in an abandoned apple orchard in bloom.
The battalion’s first motorcycles arrived in May 1941 and all battalion members had to learn to ride them. In early May 1941, the battalion – except men who had been drafted – went on its first overnight bivouac. The reason the new men did not go is that they did not have shelter halves. The battalion left around noon and returned around noon the next day.
Men assigned to jobs requiring special training were sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for training as mechanics, tank mechanics, radiomen, and radio repair for six weeks. Those who remained at Ft. Lewis were given the job of policing the base collecting garbage and distributing coal.
On August 15, 1941, from Ft. Knox, Kentucky, the 194th received orders for duty in the Philippine Islands because of an event that happened during the summer. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots 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, by the time another squadron was sent to the area the next day, the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat which was seen making its way toward shore. Since communication between and Air Corps and Navy was poor, the boat was not intercepted. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
In September 1941, the 194th, minus B Company, was ordered to San Francisco, California, for transport to the Philippine Islands. Arriving, by train, at Ft. Mason in San Francisco, they were taken by the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island where they received physicals and inoculations from the battalion’s medical detachment. Those men found with medical conditions were replaced.
The tankers boarded the S.S. President Calvin Coolidge on September 8 at 3:00 P.M. and sailed at 9:00 P.M. for the Philippine Islands. To get the tanks to fit in the ship’s holds, the turrets had serial numbers spray painted on them and were removed from the tanks. They arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Saturday, September 13 at 7:00 A.M., and most of the soldiers were allowed off the ship to see the island but had to be back on board before the ship sailed at 5:00 P.M.
After leaving Hawaii, the ship took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes. It was at this time that it was joined by the U.S.S. Astoria – a heavy cruiser – and the U.S.S. Guadalupe – a fleet replenishment oiler – were its escorts. During this part of the trip, on several occasions, smoke was seen on the horizon, and the Astoria took off in the direction of the smoke. Each time it was found that the smoke was from a ship belonging to a friendly country.
The Coolidge entered Manila Bay at 7:00 A.M., on September 26, and reached Manila several hours later. The soldiers disembarked at 3:00 P.M. and were driven on buses to Clark Field. The maintenance section of the battalion and members of 17th Ordnance remained at the dock to unload the battalion’s tanks and reattach the turrets.
The battalion rode buses to Fort Stotsenburg and taken to an area between the fort and Clark Field, where they were housed in tents since the barracks for them had not been completed. They were met by General Edward P. King, commanding officer of the fort who made sure they had what they needed. On November 15, they moved into their barracks.
The battalion rode buses to Fort Stotsenburg and was taken to an area between the fort and Clark Field, where they were housed in tents since General Edward P. King, commanding officer of the fort had learned of their arrival only days earlier. They remained in the tents until November 15th when they moved into their barracks.
The barracks’ outside walls were opened and screened from the floors to three feet up the wall. Above that, there was woven bamboo. This design allowed air to pass through the barracks. Sanitation facilities appeared to have been limited and a lucky man was one who was able to wash by a faucet with running water.
The tankers started working 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. According to members of the battalion the term “recreation in the motor pool” meant they 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.
Off the base, the soldiers went to Mt. Aarayat National Park and swam in the swimming pool there that was filled with mountain water. Men were given the opportunity to be allowed to go to Manila in small groups. They also went to canoeing at Pagsanjan Falls in their swimsuits and described the country was described as being beautiful
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. When they were discovered working in their coveralls by the base’s officers, the soldiers were reprimanded for not wearing dress uniforms while working. The decision was made by Major Ernest Miller to continue wearing coveralls in their barracks area to do their work but if the soldiers left the battalion’s area, they were expected to wear dress uniforms, including going to the PX.
On December 1, the 194th was ordered to its position at Clark Field. Their job was to protect the northern half of the airfield from paratroopers. The 192nd Tank Battalion, which had arrived in November, guarded the southern half. Two crewmen remained with the tanks at all times and received their meals from food trucks. Anyone not assigned to a tank remained behind at the battalion’s command post.
On the morning of December 8, 1941, the battalion was brought up to full strength at the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers. Just hours early, the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. As the tankers guarded the airfield, they watched American planes flying in every direction. At noon the planes landed, to be refueled, and the pilots went to lunch. It was 12:45, and as the tankers watched, a formation of 54 planes approached the airfield from the north. When bombs began exploding on the runways, the tankers knew the planes were Japanese.
When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield. The soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything that could carry the wounded was in use. When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building. Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
The 194th was sent to Mabalcat on December 10, and it was at this time that C Company was sent to southern Luzon where the Japanese were landing and put under the command of Brigadier General Albert M. Jones. To avoid Japanese planes, the company tried to cover the distance at night. They were successful and going 40 miles during the night but had to make a run for it during the day. They were successful and reached Muntinlupa and made it to Tagatay Ridge on December 14th.
The tanks remained at Tagatay until December 24th doing reconnaissance and hunting for fifth columnists who would signal planes with mirrors during the day near ammunition dumps resulting in the dumps being bombed and shelled. At night, the fifth columnists shot off flares near the ammunition dumps. The activity ended, when the company shot up native huts suspected as being used by the fifth columnists.
At 2:00 A.M. on December 24th, the Japanese landed 7,000 troops at Lamon Bay. The Japanese began advancing in the direction of Lucban. The company took a position to aid the 1st Infantry Regiment, Philippine Army, that was fighting the Japanese.
One platoon of five tanks – on December 26 – was ordered to advance down a trail in an area where the Japanese were known to be. A major ordered the tanks to advance even though no reconnaissance had been done. The trail made a sharp turn, and when the tanks made the turn, the first was knocked out by a Japanese anti-tank gun killing the platoon commander and the driver of the tank. The other two crewmen escaped into the jungle. The remaining four tanks were also knocked out by enemy fire resulting in two more men being killed.
From this point on the tanks fell back toward Bataan and were serving as the rear guard for Gen. Jones’ troops when they withdrew past Manila. C Company at one point saw 100 to 150 trucks belonging to the Philippine Army pass warehouses full of food and other supplies.
It was at this time that the 192nd Tank Battalion and A Company, 194th Tank Battalion were fighting to keep the roads open so that the troops withdrawing from southern Luzon would not be cut off.
The southern Luzon force with C Company serving as its rearguard crossed the Calumpit Bridge on January 1st. After the company crossed the bridge was destroyed. the tanks went through San Fernando and formed roadblocks to keep the junction of Routes 3 and 7 open.
Also on January 1, conflicting orders were received by the defenders of the northern force who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5. The orders came from Gen. MacArthur’s chief of staff and told the units holding open the bridges to withdraw. General Wainwright – who was in command – was unaware of the orders.
Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River and half of the defenders had withdrawn. When Gen Wainwright became aware of what was going on, he countermanded the orders. Due to the efforts of the Self-Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted allowing the southern forces – including C Company – to escape.
The tanks withdrew through San Fernando at 2:00 A.M. on January 2 and fell back to the Lyac Junction. The two tank battalions were holding a line between Culis and Hermosa. The tanks withdrew from the line the night of the 6th/7th. While doing this, the maintenance section of the battalions repaired abandoned trucks used to haul food and the gasoline caches they found and bring it into Bataan. That night, the 194th crossed the bridge over the Culis Creek, covered by the 192nd, and entered Bataan.
The company, with A Co., 192nd Tank Battalion, withdrew from the Guagua-Perac Line to Remedio where they established a new defensive line on January 5. That afternoon, C Company, supported by four self-propelled mounts stopped a Japanese advance which kept the road open for withdrawing forces.
The next night, the tanks were holding the line when the Japanese attempted to infiltrate under a bright moon. The tanks opened fire resulting in the Japanese losing half of their troops. In an attempt to cover their advance, the Japanese used smoke which blew back on them. The battle lasted until the Japanese broke off the attack at 3:00 in the morning. After this, there was a two-day lull in the fighting.
A composite tank company was formed from the tank battalions and given the job of protecting the East road north to Hermosa. This was a dangerous job since the tanks were in the range of Japanese artillery. The other tanks were ordered to a bivouac south of the Abubucay-Hacienda Line.
The tanks formed a new bivouac just south of the Pilar-Bagao Road and had a few days rest. While they rested, 17th Ordnance and the maintenance sections of the battalion did long overdue work on the tanks. Also around this time, the tank companies were reduced to ten tanks so that tanks could be given to D Company, 192nd, which had lost its tanks after a bridge had been destroyed before they had crossed it.
C Company and D Company, 192nd, were sent to the Cadre Road on the 12th but returned on the 13th because ordnance had planted landmines which made reaching the road impossible. C Company was sent to Bagac, on the 16th, to reopen the West Highway Road that had been cut by the Japanese, so troops trapped behind the roadblock could escape. A platoon of tanks at the Moron Highway and Trail 162 knocked out an anti-tank gun, and with the help of infantry, cleared the roadblock.
It was at this time the tank battalions received these orders which came from Gen. Weaver: “Tanks will execute maximum delay, staying in position and firing at visible enemy until further delay will jeopardize withdrawal. If a tank is immobilized, it will be fought until the close approach of the enemy, then destroyed; the crew previously taking positions outside and continuing to fight with the salvaged and personal weapons. Considerations of personal safety and expediency will not interfere with accomplishing the greatest possible delay.”
Both tank battalions held a line along the Balanga-Cardre Road-Banobano Road so that other units could withdraw which was completed by midnight. They held the line until the night of the 26th/27th when they withdrew and formed a new defensive line roughly along the Pilar-Bagac Road.
At about 9:45 A.M., a Filipino civilian came down the road and warned the tankers that a Japanese force was on its way. The tanks, with four SPMs, opened up on the Japanese when they appeared. The fighting lasted 45 minutes when the Japanese withdrew having suffered 50 percent casualties. This action prevented the Japanese from overrunning the new defensive line which was still being formed.
The tank battalions were given beach duty so that the Japanese could not land troops behind the main line of defense. The half-tracks of the battalions patrolled the roads. At 2:50 A.M., a Japanese motorized unit was head coming down the road with the lead vehicle having dimmed headlights. The 194th had a roadblock in place with guns aimed at various angles. When they opened up, they caused heavy damage to the Japanese column.
It was also at this time that the tank battalions, without orders, took on the job of protecting three airfields. The airfields had been built so a rebuilt Air Corps would have places to land. About the same time, the fighting on Bataan came to a standstill since the Japanese troops were exhausted and suffering from the same tropical illnesses as the defenders. To end the stalemate, the Japanese brought in fresh troops from Singapore.
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, 192nd Tank Battalion.) 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.
Between 6:30 and 6:45 A.M. on April 9, 1942, the order “CRASH” was issued. The tankers destroyed their tanks and waited for orders from the Japanese. The members of the 194th were ordered the next day, to move to the headquarters of the Provisional Tank Group, which was at kilometer marker 168.2.
At 7:00 P.M. on the 10th, the POWs were ordered to march. They made their way from the former command post, and at first, found the walk difficult. When they reached the main road, walking became easier. At 3:00 A.M., they were given an hour break before being ordered to move again at 4:00 A.M. The column reached Lamao at 8:00 A.M., where the POWs were allowed to forage for food before marching again at 9:00.
During this part of the march to reach the main road out of Bataan, the POWs noted that they were treated well by the Japanese who were combat-hardened troops. Their guards were surprised that they had surrendered and treated them fairly well. It was at Limay that the treatment they received would change.
When the POWs reached Limay, officers with ranks of major or higher were separated from the enlisted men and the lower-ranking officers. The higher-ranking officers were put on trucks and driven to Balanga from where they march north to Orani. The lower-ranking officers and enlisted men reached the barrio later in the day having marched through Abucay and Samal.
At 6:30 in the evening, the POWs were ordered to form detachments of 100 men. Once this was done, they resumed the trip north, but this time they were marched at a faster pace and were given very few breaks. When they did receive a break, they had to sit in the road until they were ordered to move.
When they were north of Hermosa, the POWs reached pavement which made the march easier. At 2:00 A.M., they received an hour break, but any POW who attempted to lay down was jabbed with a bayonet. After the break, they were marched through Layac and Lubao. It was at this time that a heavy shower took place and many of the men opened their mouths in an attempt to get water.
The men were marched until 4:00 P.M. when they reached San Fernando. Once there, they were herded into a bullpen, surrounded by barbwire, and put into groups of 200 men. One POW from each group went to the cooking area which was next to the latrine and received a box of rice that was divided among the men. Water was given out in a similar manner with each group receiving a pottery jar of water to share.
At 4:00 A.M., the Japanese woke the men up and organized them into detachments of 100 men. From the compound, they were marched to the train station, where they were packed into small wooden boxcars known as “forty or eights” since each boxcar could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors. The POWs were packed in so tightly that the dead could not fall to the floor. At Capas, as the living left the cars and those who had died – during the trip – fell to the floors of the cars. As they left the cars, the Filipino civilians threw sugarcane and gave the POWs water.
The POWs marched eight kilometers to Camp O’Donnell an unfinished Filipino Army Training Base that the Japanese pressed the camp into use as a POW camp. There was only one water spigot for 12,000 POWs. Men died in line waiting for a drink.
Camp O’Donnell was an unfinished Filipino military camp that the Japanese put into use as a POW camp on April 1, 1942. The Japanese estimated that the camp could hold from 15,000 to 20,000 POWs. When the men arrived at the camp they were searched and those found to have any Japanese items on them were separated from the other POWs and accused of looting the bodies of dead Japanese soldiers. They were taken to the guardhouse and held there until they were taken to an area southeast of the camp and shot.
The other POWs had any extra clothing taken away from them and the Japanese did not return it to them. Since there was no water available for washing clothes, since the POWs could not bathe and their clothing became soiled, they threw it away. They also stripped the dead of their clothing before they were buried. Most of those who were ill and in the camp hospital had little to no clothing. In addition, there was no water to wash the mess kits.
The only water in the camp came from one spigot which the Japanese guards would arbitrarily turn off. If it was turned off, the next man in line for a drink could wait as long as 4 hours for it to be turned on again. The average wait for one drink of water was from 2½ to 8 hours. For cooking rice, the water was carried from a river located 3 miles from the camp. The Japanese installed a second water spigot which made things better.
The POW bathrooms were slit trenches which quickly overflowed since most of the POWs had dysentery or diarrhea. Flies from the latrines were everywhere in the camp including the kitchens and on the food which caused diseases to spread.
The camp hospital had no soap or disinfectant. When senior-ranking American doctor wrote a letter to the Japanese commandant of the camp, Captain Yoshio Tsuneyoshi, stating the medical supplies he needed, he was told never to write another letter, and that the only thing that he wanted from the hospital were the names and serial numbers of the dead.
When a representative of the Philippine Red Cross offered a 150-bed hospital for the POWs in the camp, a Japanese second lieutenant slapped him in the face. When the Catholic Archbishop of Manila sent a truckload of medicine to the camp, the Japanese turned the truck away. Medicine sent by the Philippine Red Cross was appropriated by the Japanese for use on their troops. The medical staff at the hospital did the surgery with mess kit knives since there were no medical supplies. For every six medics assigned to work in the hospital, only one man was healthy enough to perform all his duties.
The death rate in the camp rose to 50 men dying each day. Each morning, the POWs collected the bodies of the dead, which were found all around the camp and carried them to the camp hospital. There, the bodies were placed under the hospital awaiting burial which usually took two to three days. To clean the dirt under the hospital, the POWs moved the dead, scraped the ground, and spread lime on the soil. They moved the bodies back into the cleaned area and repeated the process where the bodies had lain while they were cleaning the other area.
A burial detail worked daily to bury the dead. Two POWs carried a body, in a sling to the camp cemetery, and placed it in a shallow grave. The graves were shallow because the water table was high, and as they dug the graves, the graves would quickly start to fill with water. To hold the body down in the grave a POW used a pole while the other men threw dirt on the body. The next morning when the burial detail returned the dead were often sitting up in the graves or had been dug up by wild dogs.
Daily work details left the camp to cut firewood for the POW kitchen and to perform other duties for the Japanese. Long term work details also were sent out, and many of the POWs volunteered to go out on them so that they could escape the camp. Since the death rate at the camp was extremely high, Harold, with other members of the C Company, volunteered to go out on a bridge-building detail. This detail was also under the command of Lt. Col. Ted Wickord the commanding officer of the 192nd Tank Battalion.
The detail was composed of 150 Prisoners of War whose job it was to rebuild bridges that had been destroyed during the American retreat. Seventy-five of the POWs were selected to work at a sawmill to produce the lumber that would be needed to rebuild the bridges.
Harold first worked at Calaun. There the POWs were amazed by the concern shown for them by the Filipino people. The townspeople arranged for their doctor and nurses to care for the POWs and give them medication. In spite of this, some days there were as few as twenty POWs healthy enough to work.
Harold was next sent to Batangas to rebuild another bridge. Again, the Filipino people did all they could to see that the Americans got the food and care they needed. Somehow the Filipinos convinced the Japanese to allow them to attend a meal to celebrate the completion of the new bridge.
While working on the detail, a POW assigned to the sawmill escaped. Since the Japanese had instituted the “blood brother” policy, ten POWs were selected to be executed. The Japanese picked the five POWs who slept on both sides of the escaped man. It was their belief that any of these men could have stopped the man from escaping. Lt. Col. Ted Wickord was sent to the sawmill to watch the execution and then tell his men what he had seen. This was to be a warning of what would happen to them if any other POW escaped.
The next bridge the POWs were sent to build was in Candelaria. Once again, the people of the town did whatever they could to help the Americans. An order of Roman Catholic sisters, who had been recently freed from custody, invited Lt. Col. Wickord and twelve POWs for a dinner. Wickord selected the twelve sickest POWs to attend the meal.
It was while he was on the detail that his parents received a message from the War Department.
“Dear Mrs. E. Vick:
“According to War Department records, you have been designated as the emergency addressee of Sergeant Harold J. Vick, 20, 900, 669, 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”
When the detail ended, Harold was sent to Cabanatuan. This camp had been opened in an attempt by the Japanese to improve the conditions for the POWs. The camp was actually three separate camps. Camp #1 was where those men who had been POWs at Camp O’Donnell were sent. Camp #2 was four miles away from Camp 1, and because of its water problem closed quickly. It was later reopened and housed Naval POWs. Camp #3 was six miles from Camp 2 and later housed the POW from Corregidor, from the hospitals on Bataan, and those who had been at Camp 2. These POWs were generally in better shape than the men who had taken part in the march. Frank was assigned to Barracks 10 at 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.
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 who went out on the rice planting detail had to get their tools from a tool shed. As they left the shed, it was the common practice of the guards, to hit the POWs, on the top of their heads. If a guard on the detail decided that a POW was not working hard enough, he was beaten. They also would push the man’s face into the mud and stepped on his head to force it down deeper. The POWs returning from the details often were able to smuggle food, medicine, and tobacco into the camp.
The POWs were underfed and the typical meal was 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, and sweet potato or corn. This resulted in many becoming ill since they could not fight off illnesses. The camp hospital consisted of 30 wards which each holding 40 men. It was more common for them to have 100 men in them. Each ward had two tiers of bunks with the sickest POWs lying on the lower bunk. Each man had approximately an area of 2 feet by 6 feet to lie in. A hole was cut into the platforms so that those suffering from dysentery could relieve themselves without leaving the tier.
Zero Ward, which is where those who had little or no hope of recovering, were sent. It got its name because it was missed when the wards were being counted. The Japanese were so afraid of becoming ill from being near the building that they put up a fence around it and would not go near it.
In July, his family received a second message from the War Department. The following are excerpts 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, Sergeant Harold J. Vick 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.”
The Japanese needed 1000 POWs to go on a work detail to Davao in October 1942. On October 24, the POWs were marched to the barrio of Cabanatuan, loaded onto boxcars, and sent by train to Manila arriving in the afternoon. During the trip, the doors of the boxcars were left open so there was ventilation. When they arrived at Manila, they remained in the boxcars until after dark when they were marched through the empty streets to Bilibid Prison. Once at Bilibid, they were fed mutton soup and rice.
The next day they were assembled in 100 men formations and marched to the Port Area of Manila where they boarded the Erie Maru. The hold was divided into box spaces and twelve men were assigned to each box. There was only enough room in a box for six men to sleep at a time. The POWs quickly became infested with bedbugs and lice. The hold smelled from the gasoline that was being stored in it and quickly was joined by the smell of human excrement.
The next morning the POWs were fed rice and spinach soup. At noon, they received rice and dried fish. For dinner, they had corned beef and rice. The POWs assigned to cooking discovered the Japanese officers had a large stock of captured American pork and slipped it to the men in the holds which resulted in many of the POWs developing dysentery.
The trip to Lasang took thirteen days because the ship made stops at Iloilo, Panay, and Cebu, Mindanao. At Iloilo, they buried one man who had died. The POWs arrived at Lansang on November 7.
When they arrived at the camp, the POWs were in such bad shape that the ranking Japanese officer, Major Mida, ordered them fed. They ate pork and beef, rice cabbage pinch, squash onions, potatoes, and peanuts which were all produced on the farm. From the orchards, they were given fruit which included raw and cooked plantains. The sick were given medical treatment and there was enough water for drinking, bathing, and laundry. When the recuperation took too long, their diet was cut to rice and greens soup.
At the camp, the POWs were housed in eight barracks that were about 148 feet long and about 16 feet wide. A four-foot-wide aisle ran down the center of each barracks. In each barracks, were eighteen bays. Twelve POWs shared a bay. 216 POWs lived in each barracks. Four cages were later put in a bay. Each cage held two POWs.
The camp discipline was poor, and the American commanding officer changed frequently. The junior officers refused to take orders from the senior officers. Soon, the enlisted men spoke anyway they wanted to, to the officers. The situation improved because the majority of POWs realized that discipline was needed to survive.
There were various details. 30 men were assigned to work as carpenters, 25 POWs worked in the orchards, 50 POWs made rope, 20 POWs worked the bodega (storeroom) detail, and for four months the POWs cut and picked coffee. There were smaller details that took from 2 to 35 men that lasted weeks or months, while other details were continuous, such as the farm detail that 250 to 300 POWs worked on plowing fields and harvesting crops.
50 to 100 POWs were sent to a plantation and given the job of building roads. In the opinion of the POWs, they did more damage than good and intentionally kept the roads impassable. The Japanese decided that they were getting nowhere, so they sent the POWs to the ricefields to plant rice.
350 to 750 POWs were used in the rice fields and were responsible for planting 1600 acres of rice. The POWs attempted to grow as little rice as possible and would drop the rice stalks in the mud and “unintentionally” step on them. The number varied because planting and harvesting took more men. Many of the POWs became ill with what was called, “Rice Sickness.” This illness was caused by a POW cutting his foot or leg on a rice stalk. The POW developed a rash and suffered from severe swelling. If a POW bruised himself, the bruise developed into an ulcer. Most, if not all the prisoners, suffered from malaria.
When harvesting the rice, the POWs would “miss” the collection baskets spilling the rice onto the ground. At the threshing machine, the POWs made sure that as much of the rice as possible was blown away with the chaff. They would also “forget” to push the rice carts into the warehouse when it rained which caused the rice to get moldy. Although they did these things, most of the rice still made it to the warehouse. Once piled inside, the prisoners often poked holes into the roof directly above the rice. When it rained, the rice would get wet and moldy.
The one good thing that happened to the POWs on this detail was that they were given Red Cross packages. The medicine in the packages also helped to bring the number of cases of malaria and dysentery under control.
At first, the work details were not guarded as the POWs plowed, planted, and harvested the crops. The sick POWs, who could not do this work, made baskets. In April 1943, the POWs working conditions varied. The treatment the POWs at this time changed. Those POWs working the rice fields received the worst treatment. They were beaten for not meeting quotas, and there were misunderstandings between the POWs and guards. In addition, the translator could not be trusted to tell the truth.
Some POWs were sent to a plantation and given the job of building a road. In the opinion of the POWs, they did more damage than good and intentionally kept the roads impassable. Other men worked in a quarry that contained a great deal of coral that cut their feet. What they dug out went to build the road. The Japanese decided that they were getting nowhere, so they sent the POWs to the ricefields to plant rice.
Beatings were common and usually, the guards slapped the POWs in their faces. On occasion, there were severe beatings. This occurred if the Japanese suspected the POWs were planning an escape.
It was during this time at Davao that Harold lost track of the whereabouts of his step-brother.
On January 2, 1943, his parents received a message from the War Department.
REPORT JUST RECEIVED THROUGH INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS STATES THAT YOUR SON SERGEANT HAROLD J VICK 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 of receiving the first message, they received a second message:
“Mrs. E. Vick
“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:
Sgt. Harold J. Vick, 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
The POWs were still receiving three meals – which were measured down with a sardine tin – a day and received one water buffalo a week but they were being worked harder and longer. At times, after the POWs had slaughtered the water buffalo and had it ready to cook, the Japanese made them bury it. From October 1, 1942, until March 1, 1944, rations were reduced often as a punishment.
After the escape of Capt. William Dyess, LTC Melvyn McCoy, Maj. Stephen Mellnik, Maj. Michael Dobervitch, and another POW on April 4, 1943, the 600 remaining POWs from their barracks were moved to another compound and had their rations reduced, they were confined to quarters, and they were abused. During the day, they were not allowed to sit down. The Japanese commanding officer ordered and allowed collectives punishment on all the POWs. If the POWs were found to have food on them when they returned from work, they were brutally beaten. At night the guards walked through the barracks a poked the sleeping POWs with bamboo poles to disrupt their sleep.
When two other POWs escaped, 22 other POWs were confined to the guardhouse for ten days. They were made to stand at attention all day in the cells. The cells were eight feet long and three and one-half feet wide. Eleven prisoners were put into each cell. At night they were beaten with sticks when they attempted to lie down. They were fed one meal a day of rice with a little salt.
The Japanese ended the detail at the farm and sent the POWs to Lasang on March 2, 1944. The POWs thought that it would not be as bad as the farm; they were wrong. The barracks of the POWs were only 400 yards from the airfield. The POWs believed this was done so if American planes attacked, they would kill their own countrymen. 550 POWs either built runways or were sent to a quarry to mine coral for runways. The POWs dug out the coral, broke it up, and loaded it onto trucks that were driven to the airfield. When the POWs slowed the pace of their work down, the Japanese resorted to torture to get them to work.
Harold and the other POWs on the detail farmed and constructed runways. He remained on this detail until June 6, 1944. On June 12th, the POWs were taken to Lasang and boarded onto the Yashu Maru. The ship sailed for Cabu City and arrived on June 17. The POWs remained in the ship’s holds for four days. On June 21, Ray and the others were transferred to the Teiryu Maru and sailed for Manila arriving on June 24. Upon arriving in Manila, the POWs were taken to Bilibid Prison. Ray remained there until he was selected for shipment to Japan.
Harold returned to Pier Seven in Manila and was boarded onto the Canadian Inventor. The ship sailed for Formosa on July 4th. After stopping at Takao and Keelung, Formosa, the ship sailed for Naha, Okinawa. It finally arrived at Moji, Japan, on September 1, 1944. The POWs referred to the ship as the Mati Mati Maru. The name was Japanese for “slow.”
In Japan, Harold was taken to Nagoya #5 which was also known as Yokkaichi Camp. The POWs in the camp were used to manufacture sulfuric acid, at a copper smelter, and as stevedores on the docks, and at a sawmill. The POWs lived in flimsy wooden barracks. Meals for the prisoners often consisted of rice. In the rice were small pebbles which damaged the POWs teeth.
Punishment in the camp took many forms. The POWs were punched, beaten with ropes, rocks, clubs, shoes, belts, and poles to make them work faster. Many of the punishments received by the POWs were the result of the Japanese interpreter, Shinshi Kirio, intentionally misinterpreting orders, or outright lying so that the POWs would be beaten. He also made POWs, as punishment, run in circles in the cold.
Afterward, it was not uncommon for the Japanese to rub salt into the man’s wounds and had their food rations cut. They were made to stand at attention with their arms outstretched, in front of them, holding buckets of water at arm’s length. Other men were suspended from ladders – by their wrists – and beaten while they hung there. They also were made to kneel on rocks or bamboo poles with heavy rocks behind their knees or squat for hours at a time with a pole behind their knees.
Meals for the prisoners often consisted of rice. In the rice were small pebbles which damaged the POWs teeth. The sick in the camp were forced to work since the Japanese needed a certain number of POWs to unload the coal at the docks. A Japanese medic had final say over who worked and who stayed in the camp.
In late 1944, the POWs received a full Red Cross Box and celebrated their blessings. It was at this time that one American POW who was known as “Muscleman” because he had been a boxer, attempted to collect debts, with interest, from POWs. When he began to rough up another POW who refused to pay him with his Red Cross supplies, the other POWs jumped him and beat him. They had had enough of the man.
The POWs went to work on August 15, but returned to the camp early; They did not go to work the next day. On August 17th, American planes were everywhere but there were no air raid sirens, and that night the lights in the camp were left on all night. The POWs noticed the size of their rations increased a couple of times. Finally, the planes dropped food and clothing to the former POWs in 50-gallon drums.
On September 4, 1945, the POWs left the camp and taken to Hamamatsu, where they boarded the U.S.S. Rescue, a hospital ship. While on the ship, it was decided that he would be taken to Saipan on the U.S.A.H.S. Marigold. From there, he was flown by Air Transport Command to Hawaii. Finally, he was flown to the United States landing at Hamilton Airfield, north of San Francisco, and hospitalized at Letterman General Hospital.
His family received a message from the War Department.
Mrs. Elsie Vick: The secretary of war has asked me to inform you that your son, Sgt. Harold J. Vick was returned to military control Sept. 4 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
In his own words: “I got quite a jolt when I met Jim face-to-face a hospital ship off Yokohama on September 4th just after the Japs surrendered. I had been in the Yokkaichi Prison Camp near Nagoya for a year just before I was liberated by American forces and removed to the hospital ship.”
A few days later, Harold was on a C-54 flying home. The plane landed in Hickam Field in Hawaii before flying to Hamilton Airfield north of San Francisco. The photo below was taken while he was a POW in Japan. He was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. One lasting effect was that Harold would have nightmares of his time as a POW.
When asked about his time as a POW, he said, “Words cannot describe the treatment the American soldiers received at the hands of the Jap militarists after Bataan and Corregidor. It was sure rough going.”
After he returned to the U.S., he was discharged on May 18, 1946, at Camp Beale, California. Since he had not registered for the draft before the war, he registered on May 28, 1946. He listed scars on his right leg and knee as identifying marks. He most likely received these while a POW.
Harold with his wife, Sue, raised their daughter. After the war, he owned several gas stations in Salinas, Paso Robles, and Victorville, California, and also owned a gas station in Las Vegas, Nevada. He resided in Chico, California, from 1992 until 2006, when he moved to Redding, California, after his wife’s death in 2006.
Harold J. Vick passed away on July 5, 2007, in Redding, California, and was buried at Garden of Memories Memorial Park, in Salinas, next to his wife.