Pvt. Pierce Herring Wade was born on February 4, 1919, in Lexington, Kentucky, to William H. Wade and Estelle E. Carter-Wade. With his half-sister, one sister, and two brothers, he grew up in Hahira, Georgia. He was known as “Panama” to his family and friends. After attending high school for one year, he left school. It is known that sometime in the 1930s, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, but it is not known where he did his basic training. It is known that he was sent to the Panama Canal Zone in 1936 and served as a bugler. In April 1940, he was a member of the 19th Ordnance Battalion and trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
The soldiers were housed in wooden barracks surrounded by trees on two sides. The men were assigned weapons and issued a pistol, and possibly a machine gun or submachine gun. Basic training was six weeks long and each week something else was covered. The soldiers did the physical conditioning, but each week they also trained to master a skill. During week one, the soldiers did infantry drilling. In week two, they did manual of arms and marching to music. They learned how to fire a machine gun during week three, while week four covered the 45 caliber handgun. The Garrand rifle was the focus of week five, and week six had the soldiers training in gas masks, pitching tents, and hiking.
After the basic training was completed, the men attended different schools for vehicle training such as tank maintenance, truck maintenance, scout car maintenance, motorcycle maintenance, and carpentry. The battalion’s machine shops, welding shops, and kitchens were all on trucks. Wade apparently learned to maintain weapons. It is known the members of the battalion often trained on the tanks of the 192nd Tank Battalion.
The battalion was sent to Arkansas for maneuvers, but the day the maneuvers started, August 17, A Company was inactivated and received orders to return to Ft. Knox. The next day it was activated as the 17th Ordnance Company and after returning to Ft Knox, it received orders to go overseas. The reason the 17th Ordnance Company was created appears to be tied to the First Tank Group, and there are at least two stories of how the tank group ended up in the Philippines.
In the first story, told by Col. Ernest Miller of the 194th Tank Battalion, the decision to send the tank group overseas was the result of an event that happened earlier in 1941. According to this story, a squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf, in the Philippines, when one of the pilots, who was flying at a lower altitude, noticed something odd. He took his plane down, 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, in the direction of Taiwan which had a large radio transmitter that the Japanese military used to communicate with its troops. 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, another squadron was sent to the area and found the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat – with a tarp on its deck covering what appeared to be the buoys – which was seen making its way to shore. Since communication between the Air Corps and the Navy was difficult, the boat escaped. According to this story, it was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
The fact was the 194th was part of the First Tank Group which was headquartered at Ft. Knox and operational by June 1941. Available information suggests that the tank group had been selected to be sent to the Philippines early in 1941. The group was made up of the 70th and 191st Tank Battalions – the 191st had been a medium National Guard tank battalion while the 70th was regular army – at Ft. Meade, Maryland. The tank group also contained the 192nd, at Ft. Knox, the 193rd at Ft. Benning, Georgia, and the 194th at Ft. Lewis, Washington. The 192nd, 193rd, and 194th had been National Guard light tank battalions.
It is known that the military presence in the Philippines was being built up at the time, so in all likelihood, the entire tank group had been scheduled to be sent to the Philippines. The buoys being spotted by the pilot may have sped up the transfer of the tank battalions to the Philippines with only the 192nd and 194th reaching the islands. The 193rd Tank Battalion was on its way to the Philippines when Pearl Harbor was attacked and the battalion was held there. The 70th and 191st never received orders for the Philippines because the war with Japan had started. It is possible that the 19th Ordnance Battalion was part of the tank group, but nothing has been found to confirm this. Creating the 17th Ordnance Company allowed the tanks of the two battalions to receive support without sending the entire battalion to the Philippines.
Traveling west the company was assigned to a train that was also carrying the M3 tanks that were assigned to the 194th Tank Battalion. The company arrived at Ft. Mason north of San Francisco, California, and was ferried by the U.S.A.T General Frank M. Coxe to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island, the company received medical examinations from its medical detachment. Men found to have medical conditions were replaced.
The members of the company spent the next several days preparing the tanks and weapons for transport overseas. This meant that all weapons had cosmoline put on them to prevent them from rusting. Since – in some areas – the hold of the ship was not tall enough to fit some of the tanks in with their turrets on, the turrets were removed. To ensure that the turret went on the tank it came off of, the tank’s serial number was painted on the turret.
The men boarded the U.S.A.T. President Calvin Coolidge around 3:00 P.M. on September 8, and the ship sailed at 9:00 P.M. that night. The enlisted men were quartered in the hold with the tanks. During this part of the trip, the seas were rough and many of the soldiers were seasick. One tank broke free from its moorings and rolled back and forth in the hold slamming into the side of the ship’s hull until it was tied down again.
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. The next morning, after breakfast, the men learned that they were going to the Philippine Islands. It was at this time that it was joined by the replenishment oiler the U.S.S. Guadalupe. The U.S.S. Astoria, a heavy cruiser, and an unknown destroyer were the two ships’ 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 ships crossed the International Dateline on Tuesday, September 16, and the date changed to Thursday, September 18. They entered Manila Bay at 7:00 A.M. on September 26 and reached Manila several hours later. The 194th soldiers disembarked at 3:00 P.M. and rode a train to Clark Field. 17th Ordnance remained at the dock to unload the battalion’s tanks and reattach the turrets. To do this, they worked all night sleeping in shifts.
The company rode a train 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. After he was satisfied that they were settled in, he left them. The officers were put in two men tents while the enlisted men were assigned to six men tents. Each man had a cot, cotton pads, white sheets, a wool blanket, and a footlocker for personnel belongings. During the first night in the tents, there was heavy rain that caused his footlocker to float out of the tent.
After spending three weeks in tents, they moved into their barracks on October 18, the barracks were described as being on stilts with walls that from the floor were five feet of a weaved matting called sawali; this allowed the men to dress. Above five feet the walls were open and allowed for breezes to blow through the barracks making them more comfortable than the tents. There were no doors or windows. The wood that was used for the support beams was the best mahogany available. For personal hygiene, a man was lucky if he was near a faucet with running water.
The days were described as hot and humid, but if a man was able to find shade it was always cooler in the shade. The Filipino winter had started when they arrived, and although it was warm when they went to sleep by morning the soldiers needed a blanket. They turned in all their wool uniforms and were issued cotton shirts and trousers which were the regular uniform in the Philippines. They were also scheduled to receive sun helmets.
Since the job of ordnance was to service the tanks, they followed the workday used by the 194th Tank Battalion. A typical workday was from 7:00 to 11:30 A.M. with an hour and a half lunch. The afternoon work time was from 1:30 to 2:30 P.M. At that time, it was considered too hot to work, but the battalion continued working and called it, “recreation in the motor pool.” It is not known what precisely the members of the company did at this time.
For the next several weeks, they spent their time removing the cosmoline from the weapons. They also had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with their M3 tanks. Many of them had never trained on one during their time at Ft. Knox. In October, the 194th was allowed to travel to Lingayen Gulf, since 17th Ordnance’s job was to keep the tanks running they went with the battalion. This was done under simulated conditions that enemy troops had landed there. Two months later, enemy troops would land there.
Things went well until they turned onto a narrow gravel road in the barrio of Lingayen that had a lot of traffic. A bus driver parked his bus in the middle of the road and did not move it even after the tanks turned on their sirens and blew whistles. As they passed the bus, the tanks tore off all of one side of it. The company bivouacked about a half-mile from the barrio on a hard sandy beach with beautiful palm trees. The men swam and got in line for chow at the food trucks. It was then that the doctors told them that they needed to wear earplugs when they swam because the warm water contained bacteria and they could get ear infections that were hard to cure. No one came down with an ear infection. The soldiers went to sleep on the beach in their sleeping bags.
The 192nd Tank Battalion arrived in the Philippines on November 20. It was at this time that the process of transferring the battalion’s D Company to the 194th was begun which would give each tank battalion three tank companies. The 192nd was sent to the Philippines with a great deal of radio equipment to set up a radio school to train radio operators for the Philippine Army. The battalion had a large number of ham radio operators and set up a communications tent that was in contact with the United States within hours after its arrival. The communications monitoring station in Manila went crazy attempting to figure out where all these new radio messages were coming from. When it was informed it was the 192nd, they gave the battalion frequencies to use and men were able to send messages home to their families.
With the arrival of the 192nd Tank Battalion, the Provisional Tank Group was activated on November 27. Besides the 194th, the tank group contained the 192nd Tank Battalion and the 17th Ordnance Company joined on the 29th and arrived in the Philippines with the 194th. Military documents written after the war show the tank group was scheduled to be composed of three light tank battalions and two medium tank battalions. Col. James Weaver who had been put in command of the 192nd in San Francisco left the 192nd and was appointed head of the tank group and promoted to brigadier general.
It is known that during this time the battalions went on at least two practice reconnaissance missions under the guidance of the 194th. They traveled to Baguio on one maneuver and to the Lingayen Gulf on the other maneuver. Gen. Weaver, the tank group commander, was able to get ammunition from the post’s ordnance department on the 30th, but the tank group could not get time at one of the firings ranges at the base.
It is known that the tanks took part in an alert that was scheduled for November 30. What was learned during this alert was that moving the tanks to their assigned positions at night was a disaster. In particular, the 194th’s position below Watch Hill was among drums of 100-octane fuel and the entire bomb reserve for the airfield. The next day the tanks were ordered back to the airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers after reconnaissance planes reported Japanese transports milling about in a large circle in the South China Sea. The 194th’s position was moved to an area between the two runways below Watch Hill. From this time on, two tank crew members remained with each tank at all times and were fed from food trucks.
It was the men manning the radios in the 192nd’s communication tent who were the first to learn of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 8. Major Ernest Miller, Major Ted Wickord, CO, 192nd, Captain Richard Kadel, CO, 17th Ordnance Company, and Gen. Weaver read the messages of the attack. Maj. Miller left the tent and informed the officers of the 194th about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. All the members of the tank crews were ordered to their tanks which were joined by the battalion’s half-tracks.
Some members of the company were in the mess hall when they heard of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on the radio. They ate breakfast and then went to their trucks and other vehicles. Other enlisted members of the company were putting down stones for sidewalks when they were told of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. On a map, one of the officers saw a thicket that the company could use for cover so they moved there. Pierce was head of the section that dealt with artillery, small arms, and instrument repair which went to do its job.
The company moved to a bamboo thicket and set up its trucks, but Pierce, Basil Kester, Jim Boyd, Edward Swain, and Reuben Smiddy – it is believed that Smiddy was part of the detachment – for five hours that morning had been going from tank to tank checking the tanks’ readiness. At 11:00 AM, Kester was sent to the thicket to get complete serial numbers for the last six tanks – which were scattered around the airfield – that they had not checked. The other men walked over to a tank that had its radio on. The newscaster reported that the Japanese had bombed Baguio, Tarlac, and San Fernando. He also reported that Clark Field had been bombed resulting in the deaths of six men. When the men heard that, they couldn’t believe what they had heard. When the radio was turned off, they walked away and ate lunch.
Later that morning the alert was canceled and the 17th Ordnance was ordered back to Clark Field. The cooks had just finished preparing lunch so the decision was made to remain in the thicket to have lunch. The members of the company watched as B-17s were loaded with bombs but remained on the ground because they could not get the order to bomb Formosa. They received permission to fly there but not to bomb.
All morning long the sky was filled with American planes. It was said that no matter what direction the soldiers looked there were planes. As they were eating, they saw the American planes starting to land. Sometime after noon the planes had all landed and the pilots went to lunch in their mess hall. So that the ground crews would have an easier time servicing the planes and refueling them, the planes were lined up in a straight line in front of the pilots’ mess hall.
While they were eating lunch, at 12:45 the Japanese planes approached the airfield from the northwest. The men had time to count 54 planes in the formation. As they watched, what looked like raindrops fell from under the planes, they then heard the whistling sound of bombs. When the bombs began exploding on the runways, they knew the planes were Japanese. Debris flew everywhere and thick black smoke bellowed from what had been the fuel dump and the planes that had been lined up so nicely. Some of the hangers also had been destroyed and one side of the post exchange was also damaged.
A trench had been dug for a water line and Pierce and the other men quickly took cover in it. After the bombers were finished there wasn’t much left of the airfield. As the men watched a fire truck went into the black smoke where the fuel had been stored. A few minutes later it came speeding out since, because of the heat, its crew could not reach the fire.
Pierce and the other men attempted to make their way to the thicket, but the bombers were quickly followed by Japanese fighters – which came from the east – that sounded like angry bees to the men as they strafed the airfield. The men watched as American pilots attempted to get their planes off the ground. As they roared down the runway, Japanese fighters strafed the planes causing them to swerve, crash, and burn. Those that did get airborne were barely off the ground when they were hit. The planes exploded and crashed to the ground tumbling down the runways. The Japanese planes were as low as 50 feet above the ground and the pilots would lean out of the cockpits so they could more accurately pick out targets to strafe. It was said that the soldiers saw the pilots’ scarves flapping in the wind. One tanker stated that a man with a shotgun could have shot a plane down.
After the attack, the company remained at Clark Field until the 192nd was ordered north to Lingayen Gulf. From this time on, wherever the tank battalions were sent the members of 17th Ordnance were there with them. The entire company was sent to Angeles, Pampanga, where they set up their headquarters. Different detachments were sent out to the tank battalions. The company members often made repairs to the tanks on the frontlines and under enemy fire. They repaired tanks damaged by Japanese fire and those damaged by the tankers. To make the repairs they manufactured many of the parts themselves.
The company dropped back to Kilometer 76 near San Fernando on a highway that ran from Tarlec to Manila. At this time, there was no lack of food. For Christmas, the men ate turkey that they stole from the local farmers. On the 27th, they moved to Lubao. While they were there, an ammunition train was attacked by Japanese planes. Pierce, Winfred Adair, and Edward Keith were passing the train when it was hit by enemy fire and exploded. They dove into a foxhole and then a bomb exploded the feet from them. Filipinos hid under the train. When it exploded, their bodies and parts of bodies flew through the air. Others dove into the ditches alongside the train tracks that the planes strafed.
The tanks were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27, and at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29. With every move the tanks made, 17th Ordnance moved with them. The tanks were next at Culo and Hermosa and the half-tracks kept throwing their rubber tracks and members of 17th Ordnance assigned to each tank battalion had to re-track them in dangerous situations. The company’s bivouac was moved to a position three miles west of Orion on January 1 where it remained until the 20th it moved to Limay where they spent the next three weeks.
A defensive line was formed that ran from Abucay on the east coast of Bataan to the China Sea on the west. The company’s bivouac was near an artillery unit that was constantly strafed. The tanks of the two battalions were brought in to be serviced and were long overdue. It was at this time, that the shortage of tank parts became apparent. The parts that were carried by the tank battalions’ maintenance sections were nearly gone, and the only parts available were from the 17th Ordnance Company. The tankers received a two or three day rest which they needed.
It was at this time the Japanese made their first major offensive against the Bataan defenders in what became known as the Battle of Abucay Hacienda. The offensive started with a barrage in the Abucay area. The defenders, the 31st Infantry, were along the south bank of the Labangan River when the assault began. The 31st came under heavy shelling, bombing, and strafing from Japanese planes and was pushed back which created a wedge a mile wide and a half-mile deep when they were stopped. The 45th and 57th Philippine Scouts were also heavily involved in this action.
Since the tanks could not operate on the jungle trails, they were often called to support units that believed they were under attack. During this time, the tanks often found themselves dealing with officers who claimed they were the ranking officer in the area and that they could change the tank company’s orders. There appeared to be a general belief that the tanks could do anything. Most wanted the tanks to kill snipers or do some other job the infantry had not succeeded at doing. This situation continued until Gen Weaver gave a written order to the tank commanders that they were supposed to give to any officer who attempted to change the tanks’ orders. As the officer read it, it stated that if an officer attempted to change the tanks’ orders, the tank commanders should shoot the officer. When the officer looked up from the orders, the tank commander had his handgun aimed at him. This ended the problem.
It was said that the Japanese dead piled up in front of the defenders which actually made it more difficult for the next wave of Japanese to attack. One member of the 192nd, Mike Wepsiec, stated that the Japanese came at them in waves and when they were hit by machine gun fire they kept coming and had to be shot again before they went down. After the Japanese broke off the attack, the tankers walked among the dead and found hypodermic needles on the dead, and they concluded that the reason the Japanese kept running after they had been hit by machine gun fire was that they were high.
Wade, Albert Cuchessi, and two other men who were machinists were sent to an artillery unit to make repairs to their guns. On their way there, they had to take cover several times when Japanese shells landed around them. One shell flew over their heads by about 8 feet before it landed 40 feet to the right behind them. When another shell landed in front of them, the soldiers quickly concluded that the Japanese were targeting them. They made it to the concrete walls of a school with shells landing around them and lay there for four hours until the fire slowly ended. They then made their way to the artillery.
As the soldiers worked snipers took potshots at them. The haze from cannon fire actually made it harder to see the men as they worked. They worked from 3 PM to 6 PM when they finished the repairs and made their way back to 17th Ordnance’s bivouac. On their way back, Japanese dive bombers hit an anti-aircraft battery near the soldiers and they found themselves in foxholes again. They made it to the company’s bivouac which meant that although enemy planes could strafe them, they were far enough back that they could not be shelled. Members of the company manned machine guns on beaches where the Japanese could possibly land troops.
The Japanese were pushed back to the original line, but two pockets were created. The tanks were involved in the wiping out of the pockets. One tank from C Company went deeper into the pocket than it should have and a mine was planted on its track disabling it. It was said attempts to rescue the crew were driven back. The tank sat there all night and in the morning an attempt was made to recover the tank which was successful. After it was recovered it was discovered that the tank crew apparently had attempted to escape the tank but grenades had been thrown in through the hatch. One man apparently was still alive when the Japanese began filling the tank with dirt from the foxhole they dug under it.
The company dropped back about 5 kilometers south to a new location where they once again worked on the tanks. The biggest problem they had was they were making repairs to the tanks without having the proper parts. Some tanks’ main guns had been blown off while others had holes shot through them. So they could be fired, they were cut down and in the opinion of the men in the company looked like sawed-off shotguns.
The tanks bivouacked south of the Pilar-Bagac Road and about two kilometers from the East Coast Road in mid-January. It had almost been one month since the tank crews had a rest and the tanks had long overdue maintenance work done on them by 17th Ordnance. Most of the tank tracks had worn down to bare metal and the radial engines were long past their 400-hour overhauls. The company also took over 1000 rounds of World War I anti-personnel ammunition and converted it for use by the tanks.
The battalions were sent to cover the junctions of the Back Road and East Road with the Abucay-Hacienda Road on January 25. While holding the position, the 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, fought its way to the position at 3:00 A.M. One platoon was sent to the front of the column of trucks that were loading the troops. The tanks provided heavy fire so that the infantry could withdraw and inflicted heavy losses on the Japanese. Later on January 25, both the 192nd and 194th held a defensive line on the Balanga-Cardre-BaniBani Roads until the withdrawal was completed at midnight. They held the position until the night of January 26, when they dropped back to a new defensive line roughly along the Pilar-Bagac Roads. When ordered to withdraw to the new line, the 192nd found that the bridge at Balanga, which they were supposed to use had been destroyed by enemy fire. To withdraw, they had to use secondary roads to get around the barrio and tanks were still straggling in at noon.
The tanks took part in the Battle of the Pockets in February to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line after a Japanese offensive was stopped and pushed back to the original line of defense. The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket. Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket. Doing this was so stressful that each tank company was rotated out and replaced by one that was being held in reserve.
To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used. The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank. As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole. Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded. The other method used to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole. The driver gave the other track power resulting in the tank going around in a circle and grinding its way down into the foxhole. The tankers slept upwind of their tanks so they wouldn’t smell the rotting flesh in the tracks.
While the tanks were doing this job, the Japanese sent soldiers, with cans of gasoline, against the tanks. These Japanese attempted to jump onto the tanks, pour gasoline into the vents on the back of the tanks, and set the tanks on fire. If the tankers could not machine gun the Japanese before they got to a tank, the other tanks would shoot them as they stood on a tank. The tankers did not like to do this because of what it did to the crew inside the tank. When the bullets hit the tank, its rivets would pop and wound the men inside the tank.
What made this job of eliminating the Japanese so hard was that they had dug “spider holes” among the roots of the trees. Because of this situation, the Americans could not get a good shot at the Japanese. Since the stress on the crews was tremendous, the tanks rotated into the pocket one at a time. A tank entered the pocket and the next tank waited for the tank that had been relieved to exit the pocket before it would enter. This was repeated until all the tanks in the pocket were relieved.
The tank battalions, on their own, took up the job of protecting the airfields at Cabcaban, Bataan, and Mariveles, since Japanese paratroopers were known to be available. The tanks and half-tracks were well hidden in the jungle around the airfields and different plans were in place to be used against Japanese forces.
A, B, and C Companies, 192nd, were able to clear the pockets by February 18. But before this was done, one tank from C Company went beyond the American perimeter and was disabled. Other men reported that the tank just sat there. When the sun came up the next day, the tank was still sitting there. During the night, its crew had attempted to escape the tank, and the Japanese seemed to have expected this move. It appears that most of the crew was killed with grenades as they attempted to escape through the turret. One man apparently was still alive when the Japanese filled the crew compartment with dirt and was buried alive inside the tank. When the Japanese had been wiped out, 17th Ordnance helped with the recovery of the tank and put the tank on its side to remove the dirt and recover the bodies of the crew. The tank was put back into use after repairs were made.
The Battle of the Points also took place at this time. The Japanese landed Marines behind the main line of defense in an attempt to cut the supply lines from Mariveles to Baguio. After they had landed they were quickly hemmed in on a point sticking out into the China Sea. When the Japanese attempted to reinforce the point, they landed on another point, and the second group was quickly trapped on that point. The Army Air Corps men converted to infantry, the 45th and 57th Philippine Scouts. and companies from the 192nd and 194th Tank Battalion were involved in the elimination of the points. When the Japanese attempted to send in a third detachment of men, the last three P-40s appeared and strafed the barges. The strafing ended the Japanese attempt to reinforce their troops. Through a coordinated attack by the infantry and the tanks, the Japanese were pushed back to the caves below the points before being wiped out.
It is known that the company, on March 1, set up its operations in a large ordnance building on Bataan which had been emptied of all its ordnance in Baguio. The company remained in the building up to the end of the Battle of Bataan. Companies A and C, 192nd, were ordered to the west coast of Bataan while B Co. 192nd – which was held in reserve – and 17th Ordnance held the southern shore of Bataan. During the night, they were kept busy with repeated threats both on and offshore.
The tanks at this time began having problems with their suspensions which were failing. It was determined that volute springs were freezing up due to corrosion from operating in and around salt water. They also provided information that a gyro stabilizer should be added to the main gun and that a power traverse should be added to the turret. This information was forwarded to the Chief of Ordnance in the United States and an immediate redesign of all track vehicles using volute spring suspension systems was begun and both the stabilizer and power traverse were added to the next version of the tank.
The tanks were sent to the Philippines with only armor-piercing shells which are useless against people. The company’s weapons section improvised by using anti-personnel WWI 37 mm ammunition it received from the Philippine Ordnance Depot. They removed the armor-piercing projectiles from the cases and added a pre-determined amount of gunpowder to provide the correct muzzle velocity for the smaller WWI projectile. The company converted over 1,000 rounds which proved to be effective against the enemy.
For the next six weeks, there was a lull in the fighting. The reality was the Japanese troops were suffering from the same diseases that the defenders had. The American papers wrote about how the defenders were building up their defenses as they waited for the next major assault. To make things worse, the soldiers’ rations were cut in half again on March 1. This meant that they only ate two meals a day which for the first time became mostly rice. The Japanese also were dropping surrender leaflets with a picture of a scantily clad blond on them. They would have been more successful at getting the Americans to surrender if the picture had been a hamburger since the men were so hungry that they most likely would have surrendered for a good meal. The leaflets were tissue quality paper which the men put into use as toilet paper since they had run out of it. The amount of gasoline in March was reduced to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except the tanks. This would later be dropped to ten gallons a day. It was during this time that Gen Wainwright wanted to turn the tanks into pillboxes. Gen Weaver pointed out to Wainwright that they did not have enough tanks to effectively do this, and if they did, they soon would have no tanks. Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that a platoon of tanks be sent to Corregidor, but Wainwright declined.
Wade was promoted to Private First Class on April 3, 1942. Having brought in combat harden troops from Singapore, the Japanese launched a major offensive on April 3 supported by artillery and aircraft. The artillery barrage started at 10 AM and lasted until noon and each shell seemed to be followed by another that exploded on top of the previous shell. At the same time, wave after wave of Japanese bombers hit the same area dropping incendiary bombs that set the jungle on fire. The defenders had to choose between staying in their foxholes and being burned to death or seeking safety somewhere else. As the fire approached their foxholes those men who chose to attempt to flee were torn to pieces by shrapnel. It was said that arms, legs, and other body parts hung from tree branches. A large section of the defensive line at Mount Samat was wiped out. The next day a large force of Japanese troops came over Mt. Samat and descended 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.
It was the evening of April 8 that Gen. 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 were 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.
Companies B and D, 192nd, and A Company, 194th, were preparing for a suicide attack against the Japanese in an attempt to stop the advance. At 6:00 P.M. the 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.”
It was at 10:00 P.M. that the decision was made to send a jeep – under a white flag – behind enemy lines to negotiate terms of surrender. The problem soon became that no white cloth could be found. Phil Parish, a truck driver for A Company realized that he had bedding buried in the back of his truck and searched for it. The bedding became the “white flags” that were flown on the jeeps. At 11:40 P.M., the ammunition dumps were destroyed, and at midnight Companies B and D, and A Co., 194th, received an order from Gen. Weaver to stand down.
That evening, Capt. Richard Kadel gave his men the news of the surrender. While informing the members of the company of the surrender. He told them to destroy any equipment that would be of use to the Japanese. It was emphasized that they all were to surrender together. They were told to destroy their weapons. The soldiers piled up their guns and ammunition and set the pile on fire. The only thing they were told not to destroy was the company’s trucks.
Many of the soldiers took the news as meaning they would be free from the constant shelling and air raids. At the time, the Provisional Tank Group’s Headquarters was near Limay, and shells, from Corregidor, were falling around it. The soldiers on Corregidor had no idea that the barrio was still in American hands and were shelling the area. That night, he watched as ammunition dumps were destroyed. Usually, when one was torched, there was a loud thud and flames shot into the sky. 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.)
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 the order “crash.” The tank crews circled their tanks. Each tank fired an armor-piercing shell into the engine of the tank in front of it and 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.
As Gen. King left to negotiate the surrender, he went through the area held by B Company and 17th Ordnance and spoke to the men. He said to them, “Boys. I’m going to get us the best deal I can.” He also said, “When you get home, don’t ever let anyone say to you, you surrendered. I was the one who surrendered.”
Gen. King with his two aides, Maj. Wade R. 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.
At 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 not attack for thirty minutes while King decided what he would do. No Japanese officer arrived from their headquarters and the Japanese attack resumed. King sent Col. Collier and Maj. Hunt back to his command with instructions that any unit in line with the Japanese advance should fly white flags.
After this was done a Japanese colonel and interpreter arrived, and King was told the officer was Homma’s Chief of Staff who had come to discuss King’s surrender. King attempted to get assurances 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.
Unknown to Gen. King, an order attributed to Gen. Masaharu Homma – but in all likelihood from one of his subordinates – had been given. It stated, “Every troop which fought against our army on Bataan should be wiped out thoroughly, whether he surrendered or not, and any American captive who is unable to continue marching all the way to the concentration camp should be put to death in the area of 200 meters off the road.”
The men got together and cooked one more good meal with all the food they had, but there wasn’t much to cook. The company rode their trucks up the west coast of Bataan but the trucks were ordered to stop because an ammunition dump was about to be blown up. They turned the trucks around and headed south. It was at this time that the members of the company were told that they were on their own. At 4:30 that afternoon Frank Gyovai, Raymond Schletterer, James Boyd, Edward Keith, Hayden Lawrence, and Pierce decided to take their chances in the jungle.
The men abandoned the truck they were riding in at kilometer 182 and took with them the three sacks of rice they found by pouring the rice into a musette bag. They also took with them a fifty pound sack of flour and medical supplies they found along the road with them. Each man had two pistols and Gyovai also had a rifle which they would use to hunt. They took as much ammunition as they could carry and headed north up the slopes of Mt. Mariveles by following a stream into the dense jungle. They added lard to their possessions by trading some of the flour for it with Filipinos. They spent their first night in the jungle sleeping against tree trunks – so they would not roll downhill – in an area that they cleared away from the stream. An earthquake woke them the next morning.
Their breakfast was rice and a can of C rations they had. They met a Marine who was trying to rejoin his unit and told him of the surrender. They invited him to join them but he chose to continue his search. Minutes later they heard the sound of a Japanese gun from the direction he had gone. After hearing the sound they moved all day without resting, So they did not leave a trail, they walked on the rocks since the stream was now in a gorge. When they reached a waterfall they decided it was time to spend bed down for the night and slept on a huge boulder.
The men began the climb – one at a time – up the cliff and carefully chose their route using the shrubs growing from the rockface. The climb was made harder by the supplies they were carrying. As they climbed rocks fell. It took them three hours to complete the climb. From the top of the cliff, they could see Mariveles and hear the guns of Corregidor firing.
The journey was easier and the tall jungle trees hid them from planes. They also saw surveyor marks on trees and began to follow them. They made their way up to the highest point of the mountain and could see the Zambales Mountain Range from it which was their destination. Wildlife was abundant and they were able to supplement their meals with shrimp from the stream. They ran into some American officers of the 14th Philippine Scout Engineers who let them copy the map they had of the trails and told them what to do so they would know where they were.
The next morning the men, led by two Filipinos, made their way down the mountain’s volcanic crater which took them until 6 PM, and after looking for water camped for the night. The next morning they found a stream that led them to the Pantingan River and followed it. They picked up another American and made their way north. They also picked up medicine from an abandoned Filipino field hospital and food from an abandoned Japanese camp along Trail 8.
The next day as they followed the trail they ran across the bodies of an entire company of Filipino soldiers who had been killed by the Japanese. They counted 126 bodies stacked like wood. The soldiers had been slaughtered by Japanese machine guns while they were attempting to eat what was probably their first meal in days. The men left the area and made their way north for the next several days. At one point they has to cross a road being used by the Japanese.
As they continued to make their way north, on several occasions, they made their bivouacs within hundreds of feet of Japanese encampments. Each time, they were able to get out of the area without being discovered. They found a deserted Japanese supply dump where they were able to get food. The one mistake they would later regret was not taking canned powder which turned out to be Vitamin B which curses beriberi. Making their way along the river, they heard voices that turned out to be a Japanese detachment loading gas drums onto a truck. The party, except for Schliterer and Lawrence, planned an attack, wiped out the detachment, and set the gasoline on fire. At another point, while crossing a harvested sugarcane field, they saw Japanese soldiers in the shade of a tree by a truck. They nonchalantly made their way through the field and the Japanese never came after them. They never figured out why since they knew they had to have been seen by them.
In May, his parents received a letter from the War Department after the fall of Corregidor.
“Dear Mrs. E. Wade:
“According to War Department records, you have been designated as the emergency addressee of Private Pierce H. Wade, 06,394,158, 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”
It was at this time that Pierce’s good friend Cactus Boyd’s health was deteriorating from malaria. Boyd needed medicine and Pierce set out to get it for him. He made contact with a Filipino named Jimmy Espino who told Pierce that the only place where he knew that the medicine was available was a Japanese hospital at Caligaman. Pierce returned to their encampment and asked Frank Gyovai to go with him on a little trip.
Gyovai carried a Browning Automatic Rifle and a pistol while Pierce had a Garand rifle. With the help of Espino, they made their way to the hospital. At Samal, they hid in a Catholic church as three Japanese bicycle patrols passed. Jimmy took them to his sister’s house where they were told that the barrio was a dangerous place and Japanese patrols passed every half hour. As men were informed that the Japanese returned to their quarters between 9 and 10 PM and Filipinos took over guard duty. Since most Filipinos, even those working for the Japanese were loyal to the US, the men felt better as they left at midnight for Caligeman.
The plan was for Pierce and Jimmy to enter the hospital and for Frank to stand guard with the BAR since Pierce spoke and understood better than Frank did. While Frank stood guard, the two men made their way to the hospital’s entrance and hid among bushes by the stairs to the front entrance. They took off their shoes and walked into the hospital. It was raining and the thunder and lightning covered the sound of any noise they made. At the point of a gun, the Filipino clerk was told to get them quinine. He told them that they needn’t point the gun at him since he hated the Japanese too. The only quinine they had needed to be dissolved in water, so he also got syringes for them and gave them all the quinine he could find. Jimmy wanted to shoot the clerk saying he knew he was a Japanese sympathizer. Instead, after the clerk sat down, Jimmy hit him in the back of his head with his gun knocking him out. Doing this also gave the man a credible excuse about the quinine being stolen.
The men thought that they had accomplished their mission without being discovered and without listening to see if there were Japanese in the area they crossed the road. As they reached the other side of the road, a Japanese patrol came around a bend. They hid in the shadows but the Japanese had seen them. As they started through the rice paddies, a bullet went past Frank’s head and he took the BAR and fired on the patrol. Pierce also fired on the patrol. The men made their way through the rice paddies and bamboo thickets. The heavy rain also provided safety since the Japanese did not pursue them. After the men with malaria had recovered, what is known is that the six men who went into the jungle did not stay together and were sent to various units. Pierce also learned the 17th Ordnance’s CO, Capt. Richard Kadel had escaped the march and was fighting as a guerrilla.
While Pierce was a guerrilla, he received the rank of 1st Lieutenant and he received the Silver Star for gallantry in action at Caligaman, Bataan, on July 10, 1942. He was often the interpreter for his guerrilla group because he could speak three Filipino dialects. He continued fighting until he was recaptured in 1943 when he was betrayed by a Filipino, Carlos Fajardo, who had been a guerrilla leader until he surrendered. Fajardo then began collaborating with the Japanese and turned in other guerrillas for bounties. Wade was held at the Provincial Jail in Zambales, Philippine Islands. and interrogated and tortured. From there he was sent to Bilibid Prison, Santo Thomas University, and finally Cabanatuan. It was there that he learned that his good friend Sgt. Nevel Adams had died while a POW.
In early July, another list of POWs being transferred from the Philippines was posted. On July 15, 25 to 30 trucks arrived at the camp and the POWs rode them to Bilibid Prison arriving there at 2:00 in the morning of July 16th. Once there, they were given cursory medical examinations and it was determined who was healthy enough to be sent to Japan.
At 7:00 A.M. on July 17, the POWs were marched to Pier 5 in the Port Area and boarded the Nissyo Maru which appeared to be barely seaworthy to the POWs. Besides the POWs, the ship carried Japanese women and children who were being evacuated from the Philippines. The POWs went to the rear of the ship and removed their shoes and dropped their bags through a hatch into hold number three. They then went down a narrow, wooden stairway that led into the dark hold. There were three sets of wooden tiers that lined the hold. One was 4 feet high and 10 feet wide. The guards packed the POWs into the tiers. The tiers filled but the guards kept shoving in more men. Those who could move their arms twirled their shirts above their heads to stir the air. The heat was oppressive and the POWs still on deck could feel it as they entered the hold. The guards beat POWs who refused to go into the hold. Inside the hold, fights broke out among the POWs for space and air. The guards finally admitted that all the POWs would not fit in the hold, so they opened the number two hold which was just forward of the bridge. About 900 POWs were put into the forward hold. The POWs were moved to it in groups of 50 men and each group was allocated a part of the hold. Since they were still crowded, no one could lie down. Each man sat on the floor with his knees drawn up in front of him. Another POW would sit between his knees with his head resting on the first man’s chest. This left about 700 men in number three hold which could comfortably hold one hundred men.
The ship was moved to the breakwater and remained outside the breakwater from July 18th until July 23rd while the Japanese attempted to form Convoy H168. Around 9 p.m. that evening, large wooden buckets of steamed rice were lowered into the hold. There was no organized system of distribution, so the sick POWs did not eat. Many POWs could not swallow the rice since their mouths were too dry. They did not receive their first ration of water until 30 hours after entering the hold with each man being allowed one pint of water a day. It was stated that each day they were fed rice and vegetables that had been cooked together and received two canteen cups of water. Some of the POWs dried to get water from the condensation that had formed on the walls of the holds. Still, others continue to drink urine while others cut the throats of men and drank blood.
The possessions of the POWs had been thrown below them onto coal in the lower part of the hold. In the possessions of the men who had worked on the Port Area Detail was food from their Red Cross boxes. In the evening, POWs would go down to the luggage and raid it in an attempt to find any food hidden in it. The Japanese ended the stealing when those caught reading the baggage were made to sit on the deck of the ship in the sun with their hands tied behind their backs. They were not fed for three days.
The convoy of 21 ships left Manila on July 24 at 8:00 A.M. and headed north by northeast for Formosa. The ships hugged the coast to avoid submarines, but the subs had a good idea of where the convoy was located. At 2:00 A.M. July 26, the USS Flasher surfaced, made contact with the convoy, and radioed its position to the two other subs in its wolf-pack. At 3:00 in the morning, there was an explosion, flames flew over the open hatches of the holds where the POWs were and lit the hold. The Otari Yama Maru, an oil tanker, had been hit by a torpedo from the U.S.S. Flasher. As the ship sunk, the POWs said they heard a hissing sound as its hull which was red hot went under. Other torpedos were fired at the ship, but because it was so high in the water, they passed harmlessly under the ship and hit other ships. When the POWs realized they could die they began to panic in the holds, so the guards pointed machine guns down at them and threatened to shoot unless they quieted down. Maj. John L. Curran, a Catholic chaplain, said, “Now, there’s nothing we can do about this. So let’s go ahead and start praying.“He led the POWs in prayer. According to men on the ship, the wolf pack hunted the convoy for three days.
The POWs were fed each day ¼ cup of potato, barley, greens, and an onion soup, which were cooked together. After four days, the POWs no longer received the soup. They also received one cup of water each day and attempted to catch rain in their mouths. POWs fainted and those who fell to the floor were trampled. The POWs passed the unconscious men above their heads forward to the hatch and up the stairs onto the deck. The POWs in the hold panicked and many were heard praying. Others cursed and their screams echoed off the steel walls of the hold. Those who were lucky enough to have water drank it to prevent their canteens from being stolen. Some men were so desperate that they drank their own urine.
During this time, the Japanese lowered what were called “benjo buckets” into the holds to be used as toilets. The buckets were lowered into the holds in the morning, but they soon were overflowing, and when they were removed from the holds in the evening, the feces in them fell onto the POWs below. In addition, many of the POWs had dysentery and could not even reach the buckets. The floor was soon covered in human waste as deep as the POWs’ ankles. The POWs finally organized lines to use the buckets since an aisle to reach them was available.
On July 27, the POWs held a boat drill where the POWs went to lifeboats. It was noted by them that the Japanese were jumpy after the sinking of the tanker. The next day the ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, docked at 9:00 A.M. and was loaded with food while the POWs remained in the holds with the hatch covers on them. The ship sailed at 7:00 P.M. the same day and continued its northward trip for the next two days. On July 30, the ship ran into a storm which finally passed by August 2.
The death of a second POW was recorded on August 2, clothing was issued to the POWs on August 3, and the ship arrived at Moji on August 4 at midnight. The entire voyage to Japan took seventeen days because the convoy was attempting to avoid American submarines. At 8:00 in the morning, the POWs disembarked the ship and were taken to a theater and held in it all day. That night they were put into detachments of 200 men and taken to the train station. From there, the POWs boarded different trains. From there he was sent to what was designated as Fukuoka Base Camp. At this time, nothing is known about the camp.
Pierce was liberated in September 1945 and returned to the Philippines. He returned to the United States on the U.S.S. Storm King and arrived in San Francisco on October 15, 1945. From the docks, ambulances and trucks took the former POWs to Letterman General Hospital. It was during this time he was awarded the Silver Star for the raid on the hospital. His rank was also reduced to Master Sergeant. He remained in the Army and was commissioned as an officer. It is known that held the rank of 1st Lieutenant and some sources suggest he was promoted to Captain.
He married, but his first marriage ended in divorce. He then married Franci Wade and they resided in Madison, Florida. He worked as a general contractor. Pierce H. Wade passed away on February 13, 1999, in Lake City, Florida, and was buried at Mount Horeb Church Cemetery, Pinetta, Florida.