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Saccone, 1st Sgt. Ero R.

1SacconeEros

1st Sgt. Ero “Ben” R. Saccone was born on March 3, 1912, in the Barbary Coast area of San Francisco to Jennie Morasco-Saccone. Sometime before 1920, his father died leaving his mother two sons to raise. His mother married Pail Van Cleese. In 1929, he joined the California National Guard’s 40th Tank Company, and by 1934, he was a corporal. Ben married Beatrice Tuttle in 1939 and moved to 338 Church Street in Salinas and later to 68 Buena Vista. He became the father of a daughter and worked at a service station. When the Selective Service Act took effect on October 16, 1940, he did not have to register because he was in the National Guard.

After the German tank divisions rolled through Europe in 1939 and 1940, the Army created the U.S. Armored Forces on July 10, 1940. Included in the force were the National Guard GHQ tank battalions. The GHQ battalions were still considered infantry and created a “buffer” between the armor forces and infantry to protect the regular army tank battalions from being used by the infantry when they wanted tanks. This would allow the Armor Force to develop into a real fighting force. To do this the California National Guard was informed on September 1, 1940, that the tank company was being called to federal service for one year.

The tank company was scheduled to be called to federal service on November 25th but the date was postponed until January 6, 1941, because of a lumber strike in Washington State. In December, when it was known the battalion’s barracks would not be completed on time, the date was changed to February 10th. That morning the enlisted men arrived at 7:00 A.M. and were sworn into the U.S. Army. The officers had arrived at 6:30 A.M. and had been given physicals days earlier. Next, the enlisted men received physicals, and six men – out of the 126 men sworn in that morning – failed their physicals and were released from federal service by noon. When he signed the papers to join the regular army, he was a sergeant. For the next several days, the men lived in the armory receiving their meals there and sleeping on cots on the drill floor, but a few were allowed to go home to sleep since there wasn’t enough space. During this time, they readied their equipment for transport, were issued uniforms and arms, drilled, and did exercise. When he was inducted, he was a staff sergeant.

The company finally received orders of transit from the Presidio in San Francisco stating they were to be at the Southern Pacific Train Station and scheduled to leave at 2:30 P.M. on the 17th. The soldiers left the armory at 1:30 P.M. and marched from the armory up Salinas Street to Alisal Street, where they turned right and then turned left onto Main Street. From there they marched to the depot and boarded a train for Ft. Lewis, Washington. The company was led through the streets – in the rain – by the Salinas Union High School and Washington Elementary School Bands. The high school band played at Main Street and Gabilan Street while the grammar school band played at the train depot. The townspeople were encouraged to show up along the route to cheer the company. Children were allowed out of school to see the event. The company’s four trucks had been put on flat cars while other equipment and supplies were put in a baggage car. There was also a kitchen car and three coaches for the men. The company’s two tanks were already at Ft. Lewis since they were left there for repairs after the maneuvers in August 1940. For many of the men, it was their second trip to Ft. Lewis since they had taken part in maneuvers. At Oakland, California, the train cars were separated and the flat cars were attached to a freight train while the passenger cars, a baggage car, and a kitchen car were attached to the end of a passenger train.

In Portland, Oregon, the train was transferred to the Northern Pacific Railroad and went to Tacoma, Washington. From the station, they were taken by trucks to Ft. Lewis. As they entered the base, they passed barrack after barrack and kept going. Many of the men wondered where they were being taken. When the trucks stopped, they found themselves in front of an area known as Area 12 with 200 brand-new barracks that were built among the fir trees. It was referred to as being scenic since they had a view of Mount Rainier to the east 70 miles away. The barracks were located at the south end of Gray Army Air Field. Their twelve two-story wooden barracks and recreational and supply houses were on both sides of the road and covered an area of four city blocks. They were the first company to arrive at the base.

The barracks were long and low and could sleep, 65 men. The buildings had forced air heating, but two soldiers in each one had to take turns at night to feed the coal furnaces. The barracks had electricity and adequate showers and washrooms for the men. There was a battalion mess hall that allowed 250 men to be fed at one time. Located across the street from the barracks was a branch of the post exchange. After arriving, they got to work fixing their cots in their barracks. Each man was issued two sheets, a mattress, a comforter, and a pillow and pillow cover.

Sunday morning the men got up and many went to church. The church was described as very beautiful for an army base. Catholic services were at 9:00 followed by Protestant services at 10:45. After church, the men spent much of their day working in their barracks. One of the major jobs was cleaning stickers off the window panes.

The weather was described as being constantly rainy. This resulted in many of the men being put in the base hospital to stop the spread of colds, but it got so bad they were kept in their barracks and the medical staff came to them. It was noted that the members of the company found the morning temperature hard to deal with since they were used to a warmer climate. The longer they were there, the weather improved.

Once off duty many of the men visited the canteen near their barracks or went to the theater located in the main part of the base. The movies shown were newer but not the latest movies. A theater near their barracks was still being built, but when it was finished they only had to walk across the street. Since they were off Saturday afternoons on weekends, the men went to Tacoma or Olympia by bus that was provided by the Army and cost 25 cents. Tacoma was a little over 11 miles from the base and Olympia was a little over 22 miles from the base. Many of the men went to see the remains of the Narrows Bridge which had collapsed on November 7, 1940. On base, they played football, basketball, and softball. In the summer, they also went to Lake Patterson and swam.

The uniforms they wore were a collection of various uniforms with some men wearing WWI uniforms, others denim work uniforms, while still others had the latest issue. One day three officers on horseback rode up to C Company and asked Sgt. Joseph Aram, who was in charge, why the men were dressed the way they were. Aram explained they were a federalized National Guard tank battalion and what they were wearing is what they had to wear. He also pointed out that the men from selective service were given a hodgepodge of uniforms. After this conversation, the three officers rode away. That afternoon, two trucks with new coveralls pulled up to the battalion’s barracks, and each man was issued a pair. Since they were the best clothing they had, many of the men wore them as their dress uniform. As it turned out, one of the three officers who had talked to the sergeant was Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower who had overseen tank training for the army at one time.

At the end of February, the first detachment of men was sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for training as radio operators for 13 weeks. On March 5th, the soldiers were paid for the first time receiving pay for 18 days of service. A second detachment of men was sent to Ft. Knox the second week of March. Another detachment of men was sent to mechanics school and gunnery school at Ft. Knox the last week in March. At one point, there were more members of the battalion at Ft. Knox than at Ft. Lewis. 

On March 10th, the company took a 3-mile hike with backpacks. When they returned they had to pitch their tents and there was an inspection. They took an 8-mile road march through the fir trees on March 14th. The next day they had a field inspection. Since the battalion had more men at Ft. Knox than at Ft. Lewis, they were given the job of garbage collection and distributing coal to buildings for the coal-fired furnaces. They trained in their tanks on weekends. It was also in March that the company lost its commanding officer and one of its lieutenants. Captain F. E. Heple was relieved of command. 1st Lt. Fred Moffitt assumed command of the company. Heple was sent back to Salinas and scheduled for a medical examination at Ft. Miley Hospital in San Francisco. The same was true for the lieutenant. Nothing is known about how this came about, but it is known that both men were under medical treatment in May 1941. It is also known that neither man rejoined the company. 

For the next six months, the battalion trained at Fort Lewis, Washington. A typical day started at 6:00 AM with the first call. At 6:30 they had breakfast. When they finished they policed the grounds of their barracks and cleaned the barracks. This was followed by drill from 7:30 until 9:30 AM. During the drill, the men did calisthenics and marched around the parade grounds. At 9:30, they went to the barracks’ day rooms and took classes until 11:30 when they had lunch. The soldiers were free so many took naps until 1:00 PM when they drilled again or received training in chemical warfare. They often took part in work details during this time. At 4:30 PM, they returned to their barracks to get cleaned up before retreat at 5:00 PM. At 5:30 they had dinner and were free afterward. During this time many played baseball or cards while other men wrote home. The lights out were at 9:00 PM. but men could go to the dayroom.

It was in April that the first men from the Selective Service Act joined the battalion. All of these men had been inducted into the Army at Ft. Snelling, Minnesota. The entire battalion on April 23rd went on an all-day march, having dinner out in the woods, brought to them by cooks in trucks. It was a two-hour march each way and covered about 10 miles total. They stopped at noon in a beautiful spot in a valley where there was an old deserted apple orchard in bloom, the blossoms were like small yellow sweetpeas and it was just a mass of yellow. The other hill in the back of the valley was thickly covered with woods, many of the trees were flowering dogwood and many other flowers and strange plants. The company also received twelve motorcycles and every man in the company had to learn to ride them.

The entire battalion on April 30th, except ‘the selectees,’ who didn’t have shelter halves, went on their first overnight bivouac together. They left at noon and returned before noon the next day. Part of the reason they did this was to practice pitching tents and for the cooks, it gave them the chance to supply food to the men out in the field. They were fed from food trucks, which they tagged with the name “bean guns.” Men were still being sent to Ft. Knox for specialized training.

In May, seventeen “selectees” joined the company but lived with Headquarters Company had been condensed down to six weeks under the direction of sergeants from the company. The sergeants lived with them and dealt with all their problems or directed them to someone who could help them. They supervised the selectees’ calisthenics and drill, besides holding classes in all the different subjects they needed to be trained as tank battalion members. The original company members called them “Glamor Boys” and “Refugees.” The battalion’s first motorcycles also arrived in May and all battalion members had to learn to ride them. Still, more men were sent to Ft. Knox for training.

The battalion during June trained under what was called, “wartime conditions.” On one date, orders they received orders at 2:00 A.M. to move out as soon as possible to the attack position. They found themselves in dense woods in pitch-black conditions. For the tanks to move, a soldier guided them with a small green flashlight. The soldiers were expected to have their gas masks with them and had to use them if ordered to do so.

Some sources state the battalion received twelve additional tanks in May, while other sources state that it still had only the eight M2 tanks that came with the companies to Ft. Lewis. It received some single turret tanks in late July that had been built in 1937, and a few beeps (later known as “jeeps”), which made it the only unit on the base with them. On August 1st, the battalion was told it was losing B Company. The company was detached from the battalion and issued orders to Alaska. The rest of the battalion took part in what was called the Pacific maneuvers. During the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered back to Ft. Lewis.

The battalion, in July, still had only the eight M2 tanks that came with the companies to Ft. Lewis. It received some single turret tanks in late July that had been built in 1937, and a few beeps (later known as “jeeps”). It was the only unit at the base with them. It was on August 1st, Maj. Miller learned that B Company of the battalion was being sent to Alaska. This was being done to build up the military presence there. The rest of the battalion took part in maneuvers but was ordered back to Ft. Lewis, where they learned they were being sent overseas. 

On August 13, 1941, Congress voted to extend federalized National Guard units’ time in the regular Army by 18 months. Major Ernest Miller was ordered to Ft. Knox by plane arriving the next day August 14th. That afternoon he received the battalion’s overseas orders. During the meeting, one of General Jacob L. Dever’s staff officers – Dever was the commanding officer of Ft. Knox – let it slip that the battalion was being sent to the Philippines. On August 18th, Miller stopped in Brainerd to see his family after receiving the battalion’s orders. When asked, he informed the Brainerd Daily Dispatch that the battalion was being sent overseas, but he did not disclose where they were being sent. Miller later flew to Minneapolis and then flew to Ft. Lewis. Different newspapers speculated that the battalion was being sent to the Philippines. The fact there were only three “overseas” locations where the tanks could be sent which were Alaska, Hawaii, or the Philippines, and Alaska was already eliminated because B Company was being sent there. Ironically, a week before this, the wife of a 194th officer, from St. Joseph, Missouri, wrote him a letter and asked her husband, “Is it true that your unit is going to the Philippines?”

It should be mentioned that a sergeant from the 192nd Tank Battalion, stationed at Ft. Knox, wrote a letter to his parents the second week in August. In the letter, he told his parents that the 192nd had heard a rumor that they were being sent to the Philippines but that the orders were changed. Instead, the 194th Tank Battalion was being sent. The man stated he knew men from the 194th since they attended school at Ft. Knox and were in the same classes with 192nd men. He mailed the letter home before Miller received his “secret” orders.

The story that Col. Ernest Miller, in his book Bataan Uncensored, told was that the decision to send the battalion overseas was made on August 15, 1941, which was two days after National Guard units’ federal service was extended. He believed the decision resulted from an event in the summer of 1941. In the 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 Formosa. The island had a large radio transmitter used by the Japanese military. The squadron continued its flight plan south to Mariveles and returned to Clark Field. When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day. The next day, when another squadron was sent to the area, the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat – with buoys on its deck covered by a tarp – which was seen making its way to shore. Since communication between the Air Corps and the Navy was difficult, the boat escaped. Miller believed that it was at that time the decision was made to send the 194th to the Philippines. From a statement made by a member of the 194th, the battalion was scheduled to remain in the Philippines for two years.

Different newspapers speculated that the battalion was being sent to the Philippines. The reality was there were only three places where the tanks could be sent. They were Alaska, Hawaii, and the Philippines. Alaska was already eliminated since B Company was being sent there. That left two places. The fact was the battalion was part of the First Tank Group headquartered at Ft. Knox and operational long before June 1941. Available information suggests that the tank group had been selected to be sent to the Philippines early in 1941. Besides the 194th at Ft. Lewis, the group was made up of the 70th and 191st Tank Battalions – the 191st was a National Guard medium tank battalion while the 70th was a regular army medium tank battalion – at Ft. Meade, Maryland, the 193rd Tank Battalion was at Ft. Benning, Georgia, and the 192nd Tank Battalion was at Ft. Knox, Kentucky. The 192nd, 193rd, and 194th had been National Guard light tank battalions. The 192nd and 191st took part in the Louisiana maneuvers in September 1941 under the name of the First Tank Group.

The 193rd Tank Battalion had sailed for Hawaii – on its way to the Philippines – when Pearl Harbor was attacked. After it arrived in Hawaii, the battalion was held there. One of the two medium tank battalions – most likely the 191st – was on standby orders for the Philippines, but the orders were canceled on December 10th after the Pacific War had started. Some military documents from the time show the tank group in the Philippines was scheduled to be made up of three light tank battalions and two medium tank battalions. Documents show the Provisional Tank Group in the Philippines was also called the First Provisional Tank Group. At the same time, the men in the Philippines referred to the tank group as the First Tank Group. The buoys being spotted by the pilot in the Lingayen Gulf in the summer of 1941 may have sped up the transfer of the tank battalions to the Philippines, with only the 194th and 192nd reaching the islands, but it was not the reason for the battalions going to the Philippines.

After receiving orders to report to Ft. Mason, California, men with dependents, men with other dependents, men 29 years old or older, or men whose National Guard enlistments would end while the battalion was overseas were replaced. The replacements came from the 41st Infantry Division and other units stationed at Ft. Lewis. They had absolutely no training in tanks. The remaining members and new members of the battalion – on September 4th –  traveled south from Ft. Lewis, by train, to Ft. Mason north of San Francisco arriving at 7:30 A.M. on the 5th. From there, they were ferried, on the USAT General Frank M. Coxe to Ft. MacDowell on Angel Island where they were inoculated and given physicals by the battalion’s medical detachment. Those men with medical conditions were replaced. These replacements appear to have come from units stationed at Ft. Ord, California. It is known that the 757th Tank Battalion was at Ft. Ord.

The battalion’s new tanks were sent west from Ft. Knox, Kentucky, where they had been requisitioned by an officer of the 192nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Lt. William Gentry, for the battalion. Gentry was given written orders from the War Department giving him authority to take tanks from any unit so the 194th had its full complement of tanks. In some cases, the tanks he took had just arrived at the fort and were on flatcars and about to be unloaded when he and his detachment arrived and took the tanks from soldiers waiting to unload them. From Ft. Knox, the tanks were sent west, by train, and were waiting for the battalion at Ft. Mason, California.

The tanks fit fine in the ship’s first and second hold, but the deckhead in the ship’s third hold was low, so 19 tanks had to have their turrets removed to fit them in the hold. So that the turrets went on the tanks they came off of, the tanks’ serial numbers were painted on the turrets. The ship’s captain also ordered that all ammunition, fuel, and batteries be removed from the tanks. He stated they would be sent later, but it appears the batteries were sent with the tanks.

The soldiers boarded the USAT President Calvin Coolidge which sailed at 9 PM. The enlisted men found themselves assigned to bunks in the ship’s holds with the tanks. Those men with lower bunks found them unbearable to sleep in because of the heat and humidity. Soon, most men were sleeping on deck but learned quickly to get up early because the crew hosed down the deck each morning. Many of the men had seasickness during this part of the voyage. The soldiers spent their time attending lectures, playing craps and cards, reading, writing letters, and sunning themselves on deck. Other men did the required work like turning over the tanks’ engines by hand and the clerks caught up on their paperwork. The ship arrived at 7:00 A.M. on September 13th in Honolulu, Hawaii, and the soldiers were given four-hour passes ashore. At 5:00 PM that evening the ship sailed.

The next morning, the members of the battalion were called together and they were informed the battalion was going to the Philippines. On the next leg of the voyage, the ship was joined by the U.S.S. Guadalupe, a replenishment oiler. The heavy cruiser, U.S.S. Astoria, and an unknown destroyer were the ships’ escorts. During rough weather, the destroyer approached the Coolidge for a personnel transfer. The soldiers recalled that the destroyer bobbed up and down and from side to side in the water with waves breaking over its deck as it attempted to make the transfer. When it became apparent that a small boat would be crushed if it attempted to transfer someone from one ship to the other, a bosun’s chair was rigged and the man was sent from the Coolidge to the destroyer. A few of the tanks in the hold broke loose from their moorings and rolled back and forth slamming into the ship’s hull. They did this until the tankers secured them.

The ships crossed the International Dateline the night of Tuesday, September 16th, and the date became Thursday, September 18th. A few days past Guam, the soldiers saw the first islands of the Philippines. The ships sailed south along the east coast of Luzon, around the southern end of the island, and up the west coast. On Friday, September 26th, the ships entered Manila Bay at about 7:00 in the morning. The soldiers remained on board and disembarked at 3:00 P.M. and were bused to Fort Stotsenburg. The battalion’s maintenance section, remained behind at the pier, with the 17th Ordnance Company, to unload the tanks and reattach the tanks’ turrets.

The maintenance section and 17th Ordnance reinstalled the batteries, but they needed aviation fuel for the tanks’ engines to get them off the docks. 2nd Lt. Russell Swearingen went to the quartermaster and asked him for the fuel. He was told that they did not have any at the port so he would have to go to the Army Air Corps to get it. When he arrived at the Air Corps command, he was informed that they couldn’t give him the aviation fuel without a written order. It took two weeks to get the last tanks off the docks. While all this was going on, the battalion’s half-tracks arrived as well as motorcycles. The battalion’s reconnaissance detachment had Harley-Davidsons at Ft. Lewis but the new motorcycles were Indian Motorcycles with all the controls on the opposite side of the bikes. The reconnaissance section also had peeps (later known as jeeps), but many of these were taken by high-ranking officers for their own use since they were new to the Army. 

Upon arriving at the fort, they were greeted by General Edward P. King Jr. who apologized that they had to live in tents and receive their meals from food trucks until their barracks were completed. He informed the battalion he had learned of their arrival just days before they arrived. After he was satisfied that they were settled in, he left them. It rained the first night in the tents flooding many of the tents. They also quickly learned not to leave their shoes on the ground or they became moldy.

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 could find shade it was cooler in the shade. The Filipino winter had started when they arrived so when they went to bed it was hot but by morning the soldiers needed a blanket. They turned in all their wool uniforms and were issued cotton shirts and trousers, the regular uniform in the Philippines. They were also scheduled to receive sun helmets.

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.” Tank commanders studied books on their tanks and instructed their crews on the 30 and 50-caliber machine guns. The tankers learned to dismantle the guns and put them together. They did it so often that many men could take the guns apart and assemble them while wearing blindfolds. They never fired the guns because Gen. King could not get Gen. MacArthur to release ammunition for them.

For the next several weeks, the tankers spent their time removing the cosmoline from their weapons and loading ammunition belts for their machine guns. They also had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with their M3 tanks. None of them had ever trained in one during their time at Ft. Lewis. In October, the battalion was allowed to travel to Lingayen Gulf. This was done under simulated conditions that enemy troops had landed there. Two months later, enemy troops would land there. It is known that they were paid at least once after arriving which was confusing since they were paid in pesos and centavos.  Many men at first had to learn how much things cost in a new currency.

At the end of the workday, the men had free time. The fort had a bowling alley and movie theaters. The men also played softball, horseshoes, and badminton. Men would also throw footballs around. On Wednesday afternoons, the men went swimming. Once a month, men put their names for the chance to go into Manila. The number of men allowed on these trips was limited.  Other men were allowed to go to Aarayat National Park where there was a swimming pool that was filled with mountain water. Other men went canoeing at the Pagsanjan Falls and stated the scenery was beautiful.

On Nov, 26th, the 192nd arrived in the Philippines. The battalion brought with it a great deal of radio equipment to set up a radio school to train radiomen for the Philippine Army. The battalion also had many ham radio operators. Within hours after arriving at Ft. Stotsenburg, the battalion set up a communications tent that was in contact with ham radio operators in the United States. The communications monitoring station in Manila went crazy attempting to figure out where all these new radio messages were coming from. When they were informed it was the 192nd, they gave the 192nd frequencies to use. Men sent messages home to their families. 

With the arrival of the 192nd, the Provisional Tank Group was activated on November 27th. Besides the 194th, the tank group contained the 192nd. The 17th Ordnance Company joined the tank group on the 29th. 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. The exact makeup of the First Tank Group in the US. Col. James R. N. Weaver who had been put in charge of the 192nd in San Francisco, was appointed head of the tank group and promoted to brigadier general. Major Theodore Wickord permanently became the commanding officer of the 192nd.

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.

The tanks also took part in an alert that was scheduled for November 30th. 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.

The battalion’s reconnaissance section was ordered to a rice paddy which was about a half-mile from the airfield. This was its assigned position in case the Japanese attempted to land troops or use paratroopers to capture the airfield.

Gen. Weaver on December 2nd ordered the tank group to full alert. According to Capt. Alvin Poweleit, 192nd, Weaver appeared to be the only officer on the base interested in protecting his unit. On December 3rd the tank group officers had a meeting with Gen Weaver on German tank tactics. Many believed that they should be learning how the Japanese used tanks. That evening when they met Gen. Jonathan Wainwright, they concluded that he had no idea how to use tanks and would have thrown them away in battle. It was said they were glad Weaver was their commanding officer. That night the airfield was in complete black-out and searchlights scanned the sky for enemy planes. All leaves were canceled on December 6th. The next day Weaver visited every tank company of the tank group.

Although official reports of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor were sent to the military command in the Philippines at 2:30 am, For the tankers, it was the men manning the radios in the 192nd communications tent who were the first to learn of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 8th at 7:00 a.m. Gen. Weaver, Maj. Miller, Major Wickord, and Capt. Richard Kadel, 17th Ordnance, read the messages of the attack. 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 at their assigned positions at Clark Field.

That morning, S/Sgt. Byron Veillette, A Co., ran through the 194th’s command area shouting that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. Capt. Fred Moffitt gathered his men and told C Company that the US was at war. Many tankers didn’t believe the war had started since they expected to participate in maneuvers. Some men believed this was just the start of the maneuvers. The tank crew members not with their tanks were ordered to them. The company’s halftracks took up positions next to them. The reconnaissance detachment went to its position in the rice paddy. They watched P-40 fighters take to the air from the battalion’s positions. It was said that in every direction a man looked, American planes could be seen in the sky. The tankers got most of their news about the attack from listening to radio dispatches received on a big radio on what was the command half-track.

News reached the tankers that Camp John Hay had been bombed at 9:00 a.m. All morning the sky above the airfield was filled with American planes. Men said no matter what direction they looked they saw planes. At 11:45 the American planes landed and were parked in a straight line – to make it easier for the ground crews to service them – outside the pilots’ mess hall. The men assigned to the tanks and half-tracks were receiving their lunches at food trucks. Gen. King put out a written order telling the unit commanders that the threat of being bombed was over and they could allow their men to return to the main base, in rotations, for rest, baths, and hot meals. It was lunchtime and members of the tank battalion not assigned to tanks were allowed to go to the mess hall to eat. Col. Miller ordered the men under his command to remain with their tanks and half-tracks.

It was reported that only two of the seven radar sets in the Philippines were operational and the dispatches the operators sent to Manila of approaching planes took an hour to reach Manila. One 194th half-track crew tuned into a Manila radio station and heard a news flash that Clark Field was being bombed. At about 12:45 p.m. an amphibious plane landed on a runway near the tankers and after it came to a stop, its passengers and crew got and and ran to the opposite side of the airfield.

Around 8:00 A.M., the planes of the Army Air Corps took off and filled the sky. At noon, the planes landed and were lined up – near the pilots’ mess hall – in a straight line to be refueled. While the planes were being serviced, the pilots went to lunch. The members of the tank crews received their lunches from the battalion’s food trucks. At 12:45 in the afternoon on December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the company lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field. The tankers were eating lunch when planes approached the airfield from the north. At first, they thought the planes were American and counted 54 planes in formation. They then saw what looked like “raindrops” falling from the planes. It was only when bombs began exploding on the runways that the tankers knew the planes were Japanese. It was stated that no sooner had one wave of planes finished bombing and were returning to Formosa than another wave came in and bombed. The second wave was followed by a third wave of bombers.

The bombers were quickly followed by Japanese fighters that sounded like angry bees to the tankers as they strafed the airfield. The tankers 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. The tankers said they saw the pilots’ scarfs flapping in the wind. One tanker stated that a man with a shotgun could have shot a plane down. When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield.

After the attack, the soldiers watched as the dead, the dying, and the wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything else 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 tankers were receiving lunch from their food trucks and as they stood in line to be fed they watched as 54 planes approached the airfield from the northwest. Men commented that the planes must be American Navy planes. That was until someone saw Red Dots on the wings and then saw what looked like “raindrops” falling from the planes. Maj. Miller shouted at his men to take cover and then bombs began exploding on the runways. It was then that the tankers knew the planes were Japanese. It was stated that no sooner had one wave of planes finished bombing and were returning to Formosa than another wave came in and bombed. The second wave was followed by a third wave of bombers. One member of the 192nd, Robert Brooks, D Co., was killed during the attack and several tankers were wounded.

The bombers were quickly followed by Japanese fighters that sounded like angry bees to the tankers as they strafed the airfield. The tankers 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. The tankers said they saw the pilots’ scarfs flapping in the wind. One member of the 192nd stated that a man with a shotgun could have shot a plane down. The men on the tanks opened fire on the planes as they flew over. One new lieutenant chastised them for giving away their position even though the tanks were plainly visible from the air.

The Coast Artillery had trained with the latest anti-aircraft guns while in the States, but the decision was made to send them to the Philippines with older guns. They also had proximity fuses for the shells and had to use an obsolete method to cut the fuses since the unit’s fuse cutter was in Manila being repaired at the time of the attack. Many of the shells they fired fell to the ground without exploding.

The Zeros strafed the airfield and headed toward and turned around behind Mount Arayat and returned to strafe again. When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield. It was stated that the bodies of the dead lay on the runways since many were Air Corps ground crew members. It also appeared that everything was on fire from airplane hangers, automobiles, trucks, and airplanes. The runways of the airfield were pot-marked with craters from the bombs. The entire attack lasted about 45 minutes.

When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield. The tankers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, on trucks, and in and on cars. Anything else that could carry the wounded was in use. Within an hour the hospital had reached its capacity. As the tankers watched the medics placed the wounded under the building. Many of these men had their arms and legs missing. The battalion members set up cots under mango trees for the wounded and even the dentist gave medical aid to the wounded. The battalion’s medics gave first aid to the wounded.

After the attack, the tank crews spent much of the time loading bullets by hand from rifle cartridges into machine gun belts since they had gone through most of their ordnance during the attack. That night, since they did not have any foxholes, the men used an old latrine pit for cover since it was safer in the pit than in their barracks. The entire night they were bitten by mosquitoes. Without knowing it, they had slept their last night on a cot or bed, and from this point on, the men slept in blankets on the ground. One result of the attack was D Company was never transferred to the 194th and remained part of the 192nd throughout the Battle of Bataan.

The next day, those men not assigned to a tank or half-track walked around Clark Field to look at the damage. As they walked, they saw there were hundreds of dead. Some were pilots who had been caught asleep, because they had flown night missions, in their tents during the first attack. Others were pilots who had been killed attempting to get to their planes.

The men from both tank battalions recovered the 50 caliber machine guns from the planes that had been destroyed on the ground and got most of them to work. They propped up the wings of the damaged planes so they looked like the planes were operational hoping this would fool the Japanese to come over to destroy them. When the Japanese fighters returned, the tankers shot two planes down. After this, the planes never returned.

After the attack 194th was sent to a bivouac three kilometers north of Clark Field at Mabalacat. They spent their time loading ammunition belts because they had fired so much during the attack on Clark Field. The tankers were issued Infield and Springfield rifles. Since the rifles were from World War I, one out of every two worked. The tankers cannibalized two of the same type of rifles to get one working rifle.

On the night of the 12th, the battalion was ordered to bivouac south of San Fernando near the Calumpit Bridge. Attempting the 40-mile move, without lights, at night was a nightmare and one tank overturned when it went off the road. They finally arrived at their new bivouac at 6:00 A.M. on December 13th and spent the rest of the day and the next night there. The tanks were in an area of few trees surrounded by rice paddies, meaning the furthest they could go off the road was a few feet. Because of this, the battalion was scattered in three locations. Japanese planes flew over but did not bomb or strafe them.

The tankers bivouacked near the barrio of Muntinlupa. There they had the job of attempting to defend against any invading troops. The battalion’s six reconnaissance half-tracks and 40 men were supposed to defend against any landings at Batangas Bay, Tayabas Bay, and Balayan Bay. The battalion remained there from Dec. 14th to Dec. 24th. During this time the tankers spent much of their time on reconnaissance patrols hunting down Fifth Columnists who used flares at night and mirrors during the day near ammunition dumps. An order had been issued that no lights could be used at night. On one occasion, they saw someone signaling with a flashlight from a building. The tanks opened fire on the building. When they entered the building, there was no one in it, but they also had no more problems with fifth columnists.

The tanks spent the night at Tagatay Ridge. The tankers slept on the ground in sleeping bags. During the night they were awakened when the gasoline truck sent to fuel the tanks exploded and lit the area like it was day. Someone had placed gasoline cans on the batteries and one battery sparked and the can exploded. The next day they continued their trip south and had to cross bridges with ten-ton limits. The tanks were fourteen tons but the bridges held. It was also stated the battalion was sent to Batangas in southern Luzon. On the 15th, the battalion received 15 Bren gun carriers but turned some over to the 26th Cavalry, Philippine Scouts. These were manned by grounded Air Corps men and used to test the ground to see if it could support the weight of tanks.  

On December 22nd, A Company, 194th, and D Company, 192nd, were ordered to the Agno River near Carmen. C Company remained behind at Batangas. The two companies at 2:15 P.M. started the more than 150-mile movement north to meet the Japanese at an area 85 miles northwest of Manila. C Company was left behind to support the Southern Luzon forces.

At Lamon Bay, the Japanese landed 7,000 troops at 2:00 in the morning of December 24th. After landing they began their advance toward Lucban. The commanding general, Brigadier General Albert M. Jones decided he wanted to see what was going on, so he did reconnaissance in a jeep with a half-track from C Co. to provide firepower. They were north of Piis when the half-track came under enemy fire. The driver attempted to turn the halftrack around and went into a ditch. The crew removed its guns and put down a covering fire allowing Jones to escape. The half-track crew was recommended for the Distinguish Service Cross but nothing came of it. Instead, the men – all but one posthumously – received the Silver Star after the war.

The company was 57 miles southeast of Manila in the Antimon-Mauban Area. On December 26th, the four tanks of the 2nd platoon, under the command of 2nd Lt. Robert Needham, were sent to an area on the east coast of Luzon near Lucban. Pvt. Jim Hicks who was a half-track driver volunteered to take the place of Needham’s tank driver. When he volunteered, he said, “I’ll go. I want another shot at those damn Japs.” The Japanese had troops in the area, and the American Command wanted to see what the strength of the enemy was in the area. Needham protested because he believed the tanks were entering a trap, but the tanks were ordered, by a major, to proceed, without reconnaissance, down a narrow trail. Since the area was mountainous, the tanks had a hard time maneuvering. As they went down the trail, the tanks attempted to keep their spacing so that the driver of each tank could see the tank in front of him. At one point in the trail, the tanks found that the trail made a sharp right turn. As the lead tank made the turn, it was hit by a shell fired from a Japanese anti-tank gun. The shell mortally wounded Lt. Robert Needham, who had his legs blown off. As the remaining crew members attempted to leave the tank they were machine-gunned.

Sgt. Emil Morello’s tank was the second tank in the column. As it came around the turn, his driver realized he could not see the lead tank. He sped up the tank in an attempt to find the first tank which resulted in the Japanese gun missing it when it fired on the tank. The tank drove over the gun but another gun at the roadblock, further back, was still intact and a shell hit the tank. The tank crew, Pvt. Joe Gillis, Pvt. William Anson, Pvt. William Hall suffered wounds. Sgt. Glen Brokaw’s tank took a hit killing Pvt. James Hicks and Pvt. James McLeod. As Brokaw attempted to leave the tank through its turret, he was shot five times by the Japanese but survived. The one surviving member of his crew, Pvt. Harry Sibert, was wounded. Brokaw would later state in interviews that he lost his entire tank crew that day. Sgt. Robert Mitchell and his crew escaped their tank and hid in the jungle, but a popping rivet went into the neck of Pvt. Ed DiBenedetti. Morello’s tank took out the gun.

Morrello’s crew played dead inside their disabled tank. The Japanese pounded on the turret hatch and asked, “Hey Joe, you in there?” After the Japanese left the area, the crew left the tank and made their way to Manila where DiBenedetti, who was wounded, was left at a hospital. According to Morrello, Needham was still alive when he organized the surviving tank crew members to make a march to Manila, Needham refused to be moved. He believed that he would be a hindrance and jeopardize the attempt to reach the lines. He asked the men to button him in a disabled tank. He died in the tank.

Brokaw and Sibert were loaded into a taxi and taken to an American a hospital near Lucbam by a Filipino taxicab. It was there that Sibert died and Brokaw was captured by the Japanese later the same day. For six weeks Brokaw was pretty much ignored by the Japanese who would change his bandages a few times. A few weeks after the surrender, he was taken to Bilibid Prison in Manila. He remained at the hospital until he was sent to Cabanatuan, where he was reunited with the rest of the company. The other men made it to Manila where they took a ferry to Corregidor.

The company was 57 miles southeast of Manila in the Antimon-Mauban Area. C Company’s first platoon was defending near San Pablo. The company’s second platoon on December 26th, under the command of 2nd Lt. Robert Needham, were sent to an area on the east coast of Luzon near Lucban. Pvt. Jim Hicks who was a half-track driver volunteered to take the place of Needham’s tank driver who was ill. When he volunteered, he said, “I’ll go. I want another shot at those damn Japs.” The Japanese had troops in the area, and the American Command wanted to see what the strength of the enemy was in the area. An major from Gen. Jones’ command gave the platoon its orders. Needham protested because he believed the tanks were entering a trap. The platoon stopped and Needham again protested his orders, but the major ordered him to proceed, without reconnaissance, down a narrow trail. Since the area was mountainous, the tanks had a hard time maneuvering. As they went down the trail, the tanks attempted to keep their spacing so that the driver of each tank could see the tank in front of him. At one point in the trail, the tanks found that the trail made a sharp right turn. As the lead tank made the turn, it was hit by a shell fired from a Japanese 77-millimeter anti-tank gun. The shell mortally wounded Lt. Robert Needham, who had his legs blown off. As the remaining crew members attempted to leave the tank they were machine-gunned resulting in the deaths of Pvt. James Hicks and T/4. Robert Bales. It appears one member of the crew escaped.

Sgt. Emil Morello’s tank was the second tank in the column. As the tank came around the turn, his driver realized he could not see the lead tank and sped up the tank in an attempt to find the first tank. This resulted in a shell from the Japanese gun missing the tank. The driver increased the tank’s speed and zigzagged to prevent the gun from getting off another shot. The tank drove over the gun but another gun further back, at the roadblock, was still intact and a shell hit the tank. The tank crew, Pvt. Joe Gillis, Pvt. William Anson, Pvt. William Hall suffered wounds.

Sgt. Glen Brokaw’s tank took a direct hit killing Pvt. James McLeod. In one story Brokaw attempted to leave the tank through its turret and was shot five times by the Japanese but survived. Brokaw stated that he had as many as nine shrapnel wounds from the shell that hit the tank. The one known surviving member of his crew, Pvt. Harry Sibert, was also wounded. Brokaw would later state in interviews that he lost his entire tank crew that day. However, it appears one other member of his crew survived since the names of the men who died are known.

Sgt. Robert Mitchell and his crew escaped their tank and hid in the jungle, but a popping rivet went into Ed DiBenedetti‘s neck. Morello’s tank – which was unable to move – still had an operational main gun and took out the anti-tank gun. Morrello’s crew played dead inside their disabled tank. The Japanese pounded on the turret hatch and asked, “Hey Joe, you in there?” The crew sat absolutely still in the tank.

When the Japanese left the area, Morello’s crew left their tank. They were joined by the men who hid in the jungle. Brokaw and Sibert were loaded into a taxi and taken to an American a hospital near Lucbam by a Filipino taxicab. It was there that Sibert died and Brokaw was captured by the Japanese later the same day. For six weeks Brokaw was pretty much ignored by the Japanese who would change his bandages a few times. A few weeks after the surrender, he was taken to Bilibid Prison in Manila. During this time, he stated that the Japanese made him serve wounded Japanese soldiers at the hospital. He remained at the hospital until he was sent to Cabanatuan, where he was reunited with other members of C Company. 

According to Morrello, Needham was still alive when he organized the surviving six tankers to make a march to Manila, Needham refused to be moved. He believed he would be a hindrance and jeopardize the attempt to reach the lines. He asked the men to button him in a disabled tank where he died. The tankers made their way to Manila where Ed was left in a hospital. The other men caught a boat that took them to Corregidor. They remained there for about a month before they returned to the 194th. When they did, the other men didn’t believe it since they presumed they were dead.

The next day C Company with other defending forces was ordered to withdraw toward Bataan. The tanks held a line and allowed the Filipino Army to pass. Many of the poorly trained soldiers were simply given guns and sent into combat. After they had passed the tanks had orders to “hit and run.”  The tankers camouflaged their tanks and waited for the Japanese, but before the Japanese arrived, the tanks were ordered out of the area.

The company was at Tagatay Ridge on December 31st when they withdrew. It was the middle of the night when the company went through Manila which was already an open city. The tanks were going down Rizal Avenue and the last in the column as it rounded a corner saw a crowd of Filipinos cheering. Knowing his tank was going to hit the crowd the driver tried to stop the tank. The tank skidded and when the driver tried to turn, the rear idler hit the curb of the monument throwing a track. The company’s ordnance section re-tracked the tank, but when the driver attempted to move the tank, the tank threw the track. The maintenance section left and the crew disabled the tank’s guns. They then hitched rides on Bren Gun carriers. It was stated that the company traveled 100 miles in one night to Bocaue where it rejoined the 194th

The 194th, at 2:00 am the morning of January 1st, crossed a bridge over the San Fernando River which was destroyed since all Filipino and American units had already crossed. They were now on the main road into Bataan. A defensive line was set up from Guagua to Porac to the swamps along Pampanga Bay. The bridge on a side road that ran from Guagua to Sexmoan and back onto Route 7 was destroyed. At 4:00 am, the battalion dug into new positions. They listened to Japanese troop movements and heard the sound of tanks. They watched 5 Japanese 89A medium tanks come into view in an open field. The tanks stopped because no reconnaissance had been done in the area. Within minutes, there were 5 destroyed Japanese tanks

That same day, conflicting orders were received by the defenders who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5. Doing this would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan. General Wainwright was unaware of the orders since they came from Gen. MacArthur’s chief of staff. Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridge, over the Pampanga River, about withdrawing from the bridge and half of the defenders withdrawing. Due to the efforts of the Self-Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd, the Japanese were halted and the Southern Luzon forces escaped. This included C Co., 194th, which rejoined the rest of the 194th.

From January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd was again holding a road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape. A Co. 192nd, on January 5th, was near the Gumain River attached to the 194th. It was evening and they believed they were in a relatively safe place. Lt. Kenneth Bloomfield told his men to get some sleep. Their sleep was interrupted by the sound of a gunshot. The tankers had no idea that they were about to engage the Japanese who had launched a major offensive. There was a great deal of confusion and the battle lasted until 5:00 A.M. when the Japanese broke off the attack having lost half of their troops.

The Japanese attacked on January 6th at Layac Junction. The defenders included the 26th Cavalry, Philippine Scouts, the 31st Infantry Regiment, the 26th Cavalry, artillery, self-propelled mounts, and the tank group. The tanks were stopped and the crews were sleeping when the tanks came under small arms fire. The crews returned fire. Next came mortar fire. This was the first major battle in the defense of Bataan and the defenders halted the advance.

That night the tanks withdrew into the peninsula with the 192nd holding its position so that the 194th could leapfrog past it, cross the bridge, and then cover the 192nd’s withdrawal over the bridge. The engineers were ready to blow up the bridge, but Lt. Col. Ted Wickord, 192nd, noticed A Co. 192nd, was missing and ordered the engineers to wait until he had looked to see if they were anywhere in sight. He found the company, asleep in their tanks, because they had not received the order to withdraw across the bridge. After they had crossed, the bridge was destroyed which made the 192nd the last American unit to enter Bataan. Each tank platoon lost one tank at this time. This was done to provide tanks to D Company, while those crews still without tanks were used as replacements. It was on the 7th, that the food ration was cut in half, and not too long after this was done malaria, dysentery, and dengue fever began hitting the soldiers.

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 took positions outside and continued to fight with the salvaged and personal weapons. Considerations of personal safety and expediency will not interfere with accomplishing the greatest possible delay.”

A composite tank company was formed on the 8th under the command of Capt. Donald Hanes, B Co., 192nd. Its job was to protect the East Coast Road north of Hermosa open and to stop Japanese tanks attempting to use it to overrun the next defensive line that was forming. While in this position, the tanks were under constant enemy artillery fire. The rest of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of the Abucay-Hacienda Road.

The remainder of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of Aubucay Hacienda Road. While there, the tank crews had their first break from action in nearly a month. The tanks, which were long overdue for maintenance, were serviced by 17th Ordnance. It was also at this time that tank companies were reduced to ten tanks, with three tanks in each platoon. This was done so that D Company would have tanks. It was on January 9th that the Japanese launched a major offensive on what was called the Aubucay Hacienda line that stretched from Aubucay on the east coast of Bataan to the China Sea on the west. 

The Japanese attacked through the Aubucay Hacienda Plantation which was the location of most of the fighting took place. Various accounts state the attack took place at 2:00 in the morning when one of the tank outposts challenged approaching soldiers that turned out to be Japanese. The Japanese sent up flares to show where the American tanks were located. They then charged toward the tanks, through an open field, and were mowed down. The defenders’ artillery was so accurate that the Japanese later stated the Americans were using artillery pieces like they were rifles. When the Japanese disengaged at 3:00 A.M., there were large numbers of Japanese dead and wounded in front of the tanks. The defenders stated that the bodies of the dead Japanese piled up in front of them and had made it more difficult for the next detachment of Japanese troops to advance against the line. One tanker from B Co., 192nd, said that when they walked among the Japanese dead, they found hypodermic needles on them. To him, this explained why they kept coming at the tanks even after they had been hit by machine gun fire.

The tank companies also were given the job of protecting the artillery. The guns were mobile and hooked onto the tanks with a special carriage which allowed them to be moved. According to the tankers, it took a lot of preparation to set them up and a lot of preparation to take them down. The tankers didn’t like doing this job because minutes after the guns began firing, the Japanese sent up reconnaissance planes to find the guns. When they did find the guns, Zeros would appear and strafe the area. The gun crews quickly learned to “shoot and scoot.” After firing a few rounds the guns were quickly broken down and moved out of the area.

On January 12th, Co. D, 192nd, and Co. C, 194th, were sent to Cadre Road in a forward position with little alert time. Land mines were planted on January 13th by ordnance to prevent the Japanese from reaching Cadre Road. C Co., 194th, was sent to Bagac to reopen the Moron Highway which had been cut by the Japanese on January 16th. At the junction of Trail 162 and the Moron Highway, the tanks were fired on by an anti-tank gun which was knocked out by the tanks. They cleared the roadblock with the support of infantry.

General Weaver also issued the following orders to the tank battalions around this time: “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.”

During this time, the tanks often found themselves dealing with officers who claimed they were the ranking officers in the area and that they could change the tank company’s orders. 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 every tank commander that if an officer attempted to change their orders, they should hand the officer the order. When the officer looked up at the tank commander, the tank commander had his handgun aimed at the officer. Gen Weaver had ordered the tank commanders to shoot any officer attempting to change their orders. This ended the problem.  

On January 20th, A Company was sent to save the command post of the 31st Infantry. On the 24th, they supported the troops along the Hacienda Road, but they could not reach the objective because of landmines that had been planted by ordnance. The battalion held a position a kilometer north of the Pilar-Bagac Road with four self-propelled mounts. At 9:45 A.M., a Filipino warned the tankers that a large force of Japanese was on their way. When they appeared the battalion and self-propelled mounts opened up with everything they had. The Japanese broke off the attack, at 10:30 A.M., after losing 500 of their 1200 men. It was also at this time that the Japanese ended the assault and waited for fresh troops to arrive.

The defenders were ordered to withdraw on the 25th to a new line known as the Pilar-Begac Line. The tanks covered the withdrawal with the 192nd covering the withdrawing troops in the Aubucay area and the 194th covering the troops in the Hacienda area. At 6:00 PM the withdrawal started over the only two roads out of the area which quickly became blocked, and the Japanese could have wiped out the troops but did not take advantage of the situation.

The tank battalions, on January 28th, were given the job of protecting the beaches. The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings. 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.

One night, the Japanese attempted to land troops on a beach guarded by B Co., 192nd. There was a tremendous firefight, but the next morning not one Japanese soldier landed on the beach. The Japanese later told the tankers that the tanks were the reason why they attempted no other landings. While doing this job, the member of B Co. also noticed that each morning when the PT boats were off the coast of Bataan they were attacked by Japanese Zeros. The tank crews made arrangements with the PT boats to be at a certain place off the beach at a certain time and waited for the Zeros to arrive and attack. This time when they arrived, they were met by machine gun fire from the PT boats but also from the machine guns of the tanks and half-tracks. When the Zeros broke off the attack, they had lost nine of twelve planes. 

The tanks were at the Abucay-Hacienda Line which on the east went from Manila Bay to the mountains in the center of Bataan and held by the 1st Corps. It then extended, on the west, from the mountains to the South China Sea and was held by the 2nd Corps. The mountains had no fortifications since it was believed they were impenetrable. The Japanese occupied them and were able to get the defenders to fire at their own men by setting off firecrackers between the units. Snipers were the biggest problem and the tanks often found themselves being ordered by an officer – who claimed to be the “immediate commander” because he was the highest-ranking officer in the area – to exterminate the problem. This situation got so bad that Gen Weaver gave each tank commander a written order that he handed to the officer. After reading it, the officer would look up at the tank commander who had his .45 pointed at the officer. Weaver’s order, ordered the tank commanders to shoot any officer who attempted to change their orders.

Because of the jungle canopy, the nights on Bataan were so dark that the tankers could not see after dark. It was at night that the Japanese liked to attack. When the attacks came, if the tankers were lucky they were able to use their tanks’ machine guns on them. They could not use the turret machine guns since the guns could not be aimed at the ground. If the tank commander had attempted to use his pistol standing in the turret, he was an easy target, so the tanks would simply withdraw from the position.

Both battalions were sent to cover the junctions of the Back Road and East Road with the Abucay-Hacienda Road on January 25th. The defenders dropped back to the Pilar-Bagac Line which was a solid line from one side of Bataan to the other. To do this, the tanks held the old line and attempted to give the impression that a counter-attack was taking shape while the other troops withdrew. 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 in the day, 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 26th, when they dropped back to a new defensive line roughly along the Pilar-Bagac Roads.

It was in the jungle that the tankers found out how inappropriate the M3 tanks were for use in the Philippines. Off the road, they had to travel with their turrets backward. If the tankers did not do this, the guns would get stuck in the jungle growth. The tanks were also restricted to the roads since they would get stuck in the mud of the rice fields. The high silhouettes and straight sides of the M3 also made the tanks easy targets for the Japanese.

The 194th’s tanks were ordered to withdraw. During the withdrawal, one of A Company’s platoon, under the command of 2nd Lt. Carroll Guin, had fallen behind another platoon and took the wrong turn where the roads came together as a “Y.” The road they went down went back to the front lines. The platoon was stopped by 1st Lt. Ted Spaulding who had seen them gone down the road, chased them down with his half-track, and then ran on foot to the lead tank stopping it about two miles from the front.

The tankers also found the engineers were ready to blow a bridge before the battalion had crossed it. Spaulding and 1st Lt. Charles Fleming ordered them to wait. Not long after this, the 194th under Lt. Col. Miller arrived and crossed. When it was believed all the vehicles had crossed, the engineers lit the fuses. Just then a half-track arrived carrying Capt. Fred Moffet began to cross the bridge when about halfway across he saw smoke. Moffet ordered his driver to back the half-track off the bridge which went up in an explosion seconds later. A board from the explosion hit Moffet and injured his leg.

The 194th set up its bivouac in a Mango grove. It was said that the trees made it impossible for the Japanese planes to see the tanks. A stream also ran through the grove which provided the tankers with the opportunity to bathe. For most of their time in the grove, things were quiet. They heard that the 192nd had been involved in two battles with the Japanese, the first involved Japanese Marines landing on points of Bataan, and the second was to eliminate two pockets of Japanese troops trapped behind the main defensive line when the attack was pushed back. They also heard that the 192nd had suffered several casualties.

The 17th Ordnance Company and the battalion’s maintenance section worked on the tanks to keep them running. In some cases, they cut down the barrels of the main guns so they could be used. They also reported that the rivets in the hauls popped when the tanks were hit by enemy fire, and the rivets injured the crews. The tank group command reported that the tanks’ suspension systems were failing. It was determined that the volute springs were freezing up because of their exposure to salt water. This information was sent to Washington D.C. which ordered that every vehicle using the volute spring suspension system be given new suspension systems. It also resulted in the M3 being redesigned. The front of the tanks was sloped removing the right angle, the hauls were welded, the doors in front of the driver and assistant driver were removed, and an escape hatch in the belly of the tanks was added.

The battalion was given beach duty to defend one of the two beaches on the east side of Bataan where the Japanese could land troops. The tank crews were also assigned guard duty. Their job was to prevent Japanese infiltrators. The tankers set up roadblocks along gravel roads and stopped and searched everyone coming down the road. The tankers ordered anyone coming down the road to halt and if the person didn’t they opened fire. The tanks also became a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while hidden in the jungle and could not fight back. The situation was so bad that other troops avoided being near the tanks. In one case, the 26th Cavalry turned down a tank company’s offer of assistance in a counter-attack. They were also involved in skirmishes with the Japanese, but the battalion was not involved in either the Battle of the Points or the Battle of the Pockets.

The reality was that the same illnesses that were taking their toll on the Bataan defenders were also taking their toll on the Japanese. American newspapers wrote about the lull in the fighting and the building of defenses against the expected assault that most likely would take place. The soldiers on Bataan also knew that an assault was coming, they just didn’t know when it would take place. The Japanese dropped surrender leaflets on the defenders that were printed on tissue paper. Most showed a scantily clad blond on them. Men stated that if the picture had been a hamburger and milkshake the Japanese may have had the results they wanted. The one good thing about the leaflets is that they made good toilet paper.

On March 1st, food rations were cut in half again. Men hunted for food and it was said they had eaten anything that moved on the peninsula. The hardest thing for men to eat were the monkeys since they looked human when they went to cook them. The Japanese also dropped leaflets on the defenders with the picture of a scantily clad blond telling them to surrender. One tanker said that they may have gotten a better result if the picture was of a hamburger and a milkshake. 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 so Wainwright abandoned the idea. Since the tanks were the only vehicles receiving fuel, they were used to carry 115-millimeter shells to the artillery by attaching them to long poles. Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that a platoon of tanks be sent to Corregidor, but Wainwright declined.

The tank crews were assigned guard duty. Their job was to prevent Japanese infiltrators. The tankers set up roadblocks along gravel roads and stopped and searched everyone coming down the road. The tankers anyone coming down the road to halt and if the person didn’t they opened fire. The tanks also became a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while hidden in the jungle. and could not fight back. The situation was so bad that other troops avoided being near the tanks. In one case, the 26th Cavalry turned down a tank company’s offer of assistance in a counter-attack.

For most of March, the situation on Bataan was relatively quiet and the Japanese had been fought to a standstill. On one occasion, two tanks had gotten stuck in the mud, and the crews were working to free them. While they were doing this, a Japanese regiment entered the area. Lt. Colonel Ernest Miller ordered his tanks to fire on the Japanese at point-blank range. He also ran from tank to tank directing the crew’s fire. The Japanese were wiped out. On March 21st, the last major battle was fought by the tanks.

The defenders of Bataan had held out nearly four months at this point. Gen. Masaharu Homma was reported to have said that the Americans were slowly being pushed back. But, he then stated, in what appeared to be frustration, that the American command seemed to be able to predict every attack that he planned and successfully repel it.

By this point, the tankers knew that there was no help on the way. Many had listened to Secretary of War Harry L. Stimson on short-wave radio. When asked about the Philippines, he said, “There are times when men must die.” The soldiers cursed in response because they knew that the Philippines had already been lost.

During this time, two tanks had gotten stuck in the mud, and the crews were working to free them. While they were doing this, a Japanese regiment entered the area. Lt. Col. Miller ordered his tanks to fire on the Japanese at point-blank range. He also ran from tank to tank directing the crew’s fire. The Japanese were wiped out. On March 21st, the last major battle was fought by the tanks.

The reality was that the same illnesses that were taking their toll on the Bataan defenders were also taking their toll on the Japanese. American newspapers wrote about the lull in the fighting and the building of defenses against the expected assault that most likely would take place. The soldiers on Bataan also knew that an assault was coming, they just didn’t know when it would take place. Having brought in combat-harden troops from Singapore, the Japanese launched a major offensive on April 3rd supported by artillery and aircraft. The artillery barrage started at 10 a.m. and lasted until noon. 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 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 Company was on beach duty that night and the Japanese brought up barges with artillery set up on them that began shelling the beach. The company returned fire which resulted in the barges withdrawing.

A counter-attack was launched – on April 6th – 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. C Co. was attached to the 192nd and supporting the 2nd Battalion, 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, which was moving east on Trail 8 toward Limay. It was about 5:00 A.M. at the junction of Trails 8 and Trail 6 when the battalion was ambushed by a large number of Japanese. The 1st Platoon of the company was acting as part of the point when the lead tank was knocked out by anti-tank fire and the following tank was forced off the trail.

In March, Gen Douglas MacArthur had given orders to Gen. King and Gen. Wainwright that they were not to surrender and fight to the last man. At some point during this time, the Pentagon had sent a message to MacArthur that if either Gen. King or Gen. Wainwright believed that surrendering was his only option they had permission to surrender their forces. MacArthur chose not to forward this message to them.

It was the evening of April 8th 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 had two days of food left. He also believed his troops could fight for one more day. He believed by doing this he was disobeying orders and would be court-martialed after the war. Companies B and D, 192nd, and A Company, 194th, were preparing for a suicide attack on the Japanese in an attempt to stop the advance. At 6:00 P.M. 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 Co., 192nd, 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. At midnight Companies B and D, and A Company, 194th, received an order from Gen. Weaver to stand down. At 2:oo am on 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.”  Col. Miller told his men of the surrender and the tankers were ordered to destroy their tanks. First, they fired armor-piercing shells into the engines of their trucks and then circled the tanks and did the same. They cut the gas lines and threw torches into the tanks. Within minutes, the ammunition inside the tanks began exploding. Most of the company waited in their bivouac for the Japanese to make contact, while others attempted to reach Corregidor which had not surrendered. In a bit of irony, an officer from the Army Finance Corps showed up and each man was paid 15.00 dollars for four months of fighting. That evening they ate the best meal they had in months.

Col. Miller gathered the members of all the companies together and told them of the surrender. He stated that Gen. King surrendered because he wanted to prevent the needless slaughter of his men. He then instructed them to destroy their tanks and half-tracks. An officer from the finance department showed up and each man received about $15.00 in pesos as partial payment for the last four months, Men gambled it away while others made wisecracks about how they were going to spend it.

According to a member of HQ Co., 194th, Gen. King spoke to the men and said, “I’m the man who surrendered you, men. It’s not your fault.” He also spoke to the members of the 17th Ordnance Company and B Company, 192nd, and told them something similar. King ordered them to surrender and threatened to court-martial anyone who didn’t. 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.

At about 10:00 a.m.the jeeps reached Lamao where they were received by a Japanese Major General who informed Gen. 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 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 in the line of 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 194th remained in its bivouac – which was at kilometer 168 – all day without seeing one Japanese soldier. During this time, they divided up the food and money from the company’s treasury. That night the soldiers went to sleep and were still sleeping when the Japanese entered their bivouac. The Japanese came down a small tail and it was noted that several of them had red faces as if they had fevers indicating to the Prisoners, of War, that the Japanese were in as bad shape as they were. When one Japanese soldier fell over, the others beat him until he got up and stood on his own. This was the first sign that being a Japanese Prisoner of War was not going to be a pleasant experience. The Prisoners of War spent the night near a road and formed ranks the next morning. Moffitt handed an American flag to a Japanese officer as a sign of surrender. The Japanese officer responded by throwing it on the ground, stepping on it., and he began slapping Moffit. The enlisted men believed he did this as a sign that surrendering was a disgraceful act.

C Company was ordered to move to the headquarters of the Provisional Tank Group, which was at kilometer marker 168.2. The company had already destroyed all its tanks and vehicles except for one half-track that men rode to the Tank Group Headquarters. With a guard escorting them, the men were allowed to get water from a well that was down a hill. When the Japanese realized that they were not a threat, they allowed the prisoners to go to the well unescorted. The Japanese ordered them to remain where they were the rest of the day and they went to sleep along the side of a road. The next day they woke to the sound of Japanese artillery firing at Corregidor. The island had not surrendered. From the battalion’s officers, an older Japanese general attempted to find out where the water line to Corregidor was located. The water line did not exist, but the Japanese believed that it did and that they could get the island to surrender by cutting off its water.

Lt Col. Miller presented himself so the Japanese knew that he was the commanding officer. He removed his hat so that they would know who he was with it on or with it off. The men were ordered to assemble, in the jungle, about three blocks from their disabled tanks. The area was near a hospital in Mariveles. The battalion cooks were ordered to collect all the food from the men so that a final meal of the battalion could take place. The battalion remained in its bivouac all day without seeing one Japanese soldier. During this time, they divided up the food and money from the company’s treasury.

The Japanese ordered them to remain where they were the rest of the day and they went to sleep along the side of a road. The next day they woke to the sound of Japanese artillery firing at Corregidor. The island had not surrendered. From the battalion’s officers, an older Japanese general attempted to find out where the water line to Corregidor was located. The water line did not exist, but the Japanese believed that it did and that they could get the island to surrender by cutting off its water.

At 7:00 P.M., the POWs were ordered to go out on the road near their bivouac. The POWs were ordered out to a road where the Japanese who had no interpreters beat and clubbed the Prisoners of War until they formed ranks. As they stood on the road, a shell from Corregidor hit the barn where they had spent the night. They were put into detachments of 100 men with four men in each row and marched about one kilometer when they were stopped. The Japanese then began searching the POWs. The first thing they had the POWs do was to show their hands. The GI tank wristwatch he was wearing was easily seen. A guard noticed the ring on one man’s hand and asked, “Wife-oo” and the man nodded yes, and the guards moved on to the next POW. They went from man to man taking rings and watches. If a POW attempted to argue for the ring, the guards simply took their bayonets and cut the man’s finger off. A Japanese officer arrived and shouted at the guards who stopped searching the POWs. The POWs had started what they simply called “the hike” or “the march.” The POWs marched for three or four kilometers and then turned around and marched back to where they started. It was nearly dusk and more and more detachments of POWs kept arriving. The POWs were given enough space to lie down for the night.

The next morning the Japanese woke them and had them form ranks. As they made their way north toward the Lamao area of Bataan. They were joined by other POWs coming from side roads and trails. The Japanese had sent out detachments looking for stragglers. There were many more Filipino POWs than Americans and the two groups mixed. The road was hard to walk on because of the holes from the shelling and bombings. There was also destroyed equipment on it and the bodies of the dead. The POWs were moved to the side of the road whenever a Japanese convoy came by heading south. The Japanese soldiers tried to hit the POWs in their heads with their rifle butts as they passed them.

When they started the march, the guards were combat veterans who viewed the POWs as combat veterans. Some men stated that the guards, at first, did not stop them from getting water if they had canteens. When the guards were changed the abuse started. The new guards were not combat veterans. It was only as time went on this was stopped and men were bayoneted or shot attempting to get water. This happened because the POWs broke ranks to run to the artesian wells and the Japanese wanted them to remain in columns.

The guards were assigned a certain distance to cover and wanted to finish it as fast as possible so they moved the POWs at a faster pace which was hard for the POWs in worse shape. If a man fell, the guards did not want to stop the column so they shot or bayoneted the man. When the guards finished their assigned part of the march, the POWs were allowed to rest, but when the new guards took over, they also wanted to finish their part of the march as fast as possible, so the POWs once again were moved at a fast pace.

The Japanese did not feed them but they also did not stop the Filipinos who were standing along the sides of the road giving out food to them. The problem again was that there were POWs who broke ranks and ran ahead of other POWs to get the food. Since the Japanese wanted the POWs in columns of four men, they soon stopped the Filipinos from giving food to the POWs. The Japanese had tired of reorganizing the POWs into columns and began to shoot POWs to make the point they were to remain in columns. It was stated that they saw few bodies when they began the march, but the bodies became more common as they got further north.

The guards were changed at predetermined spots and small compounds surrounded by barbed wire were set up to put the POWs in while the guards were changed. The compounds having been used by other POWs were covered in human excrement since many of the POWs were sick. The Japanese also had not set up latrines for the POWs to use. If a man sat down he sat in human waste. If a POW did not want to continue with his detachment, he could remain in the compound. Each time the guards changed, the POWs found they made them move as fast as possible. The reason was that the guards wanted to complete their assigned portion of the march. This also may explain why those who fell were killed.

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 marched faster and were given very few breaks. The new guards were not combat-harden troops, and they also expected the POWs to move at a faster pace and did not care about their physical condition. The guards were assigned a certain distance to cover and wanted to finish it as fast as possible so they moved the POWs at a fast pace which was hard for the POWs in worse shape. If a man fell the guards did not want to stop the column so they shot or bayoneted the man. When the guards finished their assigned part of the march, the POWs were allowed to rest, but when the new guards took over, they also wanted to finish their part of the march as fast as possible, so the POWs once again were moved at a fast pace. When they did receive a break, they had to sit in the road until they were ordered to move.

The Japanese provided no water to the POWs. Since it was dark, men were able to fill their canteen cups at artesian wells since the guards could not see them. At a small barrio, Filipinos appeared with buckets of water for the POWs. The Filipinos were gone by the time the guards arrived to see what was going on among the POWs. The POWs were left in the compound for the day, and no cover from the sun beating down on them. The Japanese gave enough water to the men to wet their tongues. The POWs did not know it, but they were receiving the sun treatment. Some men went out of their heads and drifted into comas. 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 marched faster and were given very few breaks. When they received a break, they had to sit on the road but they could not lie down. If they tried to lie down, they were jabbed with bayonets.  When they were ordered to move, they made their way through Orion and Pilar. At various times they were rested so that the guards could be changed.

The POWs made their way to Balanga where they were searched again. North of the barrio they were herded into a field. The POWs were forced to sleep on top of each other. The next morning the POWs were ordered to assemble and those who had died continued to lie on the ground. The large crows circled the field. The POWs finally received their first meal. It was also at this time that the Filipinos were separated from the Americans and the officers rejoined the march. The POWs marched through Abucay, Samal, and Orani.

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. At Lubao, they were put into a bullpen the size of a football field.

The next morning the POWs marched 13 kilometers to San Fernando, Pampanga, and were put into groups of 200 men in another bullpen that appears to have been a schoolyard surrounded by barbed wire. Again, they were not fed because the Japanese did not get around to feeding them. They remained there only a few hours before they were ordered to form detachments of 100 men. They then were marched to the train station where small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane were waiting for them.

The cars were known as “forty or eights” since each car could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese had organized the POWs into detachments of 100 men, so they wanted all 100 men in one car. The POWs were packed into the cars until all were inside and then the doors of the boxcars were closed. They were packed into the cars so tightly that those who died – most men suffocated from lack of air – remained standing because they could not fall to the floors. If a man defecated, he defecated on himself and the men around him.

The train arrived at Capas and those POWs who were still alive climbed out of the boxcars. The bodies of those who had died fell to the floors of the cars as the living climbed out of them. Once out of the cars, the Filipinos threw food to the POWs. The guards did not stop them from throwing the food. They again formed detachments and were marched from the train depot to Camp O’Donnell which the Japanese estimated could hold from 15,000 to 20,000 POWs.

At Camp O’Donnell, the POWs were taken into a large field where they were counted and searched and all extra clothing that they had was taken from them and not returned. Blankets, knives, and matches were taken from them. If a man was found to have Japanese money or other items on them, they were taken to the guardhouse. Finally, the camp commandant came out, stood on the back of a flatbed truck, and told them that they were enemies of Japan and would always be Japan’s enemies. He also told them that they were captives and not prisoners of war and would be treated accordingly. After the speech, the prisoners were allowed to go to their barracks. Over the next several days, gunshots were heard to the southeast of the camp as the POWs who had Japanese items on them were executed for looting.

Each unit was assigned its own barracks with the 192nd, 194th, and 17th Ordnance in the same area. There was not enough housing for the POWs and most slept under buildings or on the ground. The barracks were designed for 40 men and those who did sleep in one slept in one with as many 80 to 120 men. Most of the POWs slept on the ground under the barracks. There was no netting to protect the men from malaria-carrying mosquitos as they slept, so many men soon became ill with malaria. The ranking American officer was slapped after asking for building materials to repair the buildings.

The POWs received three meals, mainly rice, a day. For breakfast, they were fed a half cup of soupy rice and occasionally some type of coffee. Lunch each day was half of a mess kit of steamed rice and a half cup of sweet potato soup. Some men said it was slop and made men violently ill. They received the same meal for dinner. All meals were served outside regardless of the weather. Men stated that other men would push the food away and not eat and were gradually starving themselves. When they realized that they were dying they tried to eat but had completely lost their appetites for any food. By May 1st, the food had improved a little with the issuing of a little wheat flour, some native beans, and a small issue of coconut oil. About once every ten days, 3 or 4 small calves were brought into the camp. When the meat was given out, there was only enough for one-fourth of the POWs to receive a piece that was an inch square. A native potato, the camote, was given to the POWs, but most were rotten and thrown out. The POWs had to post guards to prevent other POWs from eating them. The camp had a Black Market and POWs who had money could buy a small can of fish from the guards for $5.00.

One of the biggest problems with the food was the cooks – regardless of unit – pilfered extra food for themselves. It was reported that some of the cooks looked healthier than the average POW. The cooks even sold the food to other POWs. When the cooks were replaced in an attempt to deal with the problem, the new cooks soon were doing the same thing.

There was only one water faucet in the camp, and the prisoners stood in line for two to eight hours waiting for a drink. The Japanese guards at the faucet would turn it off for no reason and the next man in line would stand as long as four hours waiting for it to be turned on again. This situation improved when a second faucet was added by the POWs who came up with the pipe, dug the trench, and ran the waterline. Just like the first faucet, the Japanese turned off the water when they wanted water to bathe, but unlike the first water line, the POWs had the ability to turn on the water again without the Japanese knowing it.

There was no water for washing clothes, so the POWs would throw out their clothing when it had been soiled. In addition, water for cooking had to be carried three miles from a river to the camp, and mess kits could not be washed. The slit trenches in the camp were inadequate and were soon overflowing since most of the POWs had dysentery. The result was that flies were everywhere in the camp including the POW kitchens and in the food.

The camp hospital had no soap, water, or disinfectant. When the ranking American doctor at the camp wrote a letter to the camp commandant, Capt. Yohio Tsuneyoshi, asking for medical supplies. He was told never to write another letter. The Archbishop of Manila sent a truckload of medical supplies to the camp, but the Japanese commandant refused to allow the truck into the camp. When the Philippine Red Cross sent medical supplies to the camp the Japanese took 95% of the supplies for their use. When a second truck was sent to the camp by the Red Cross, it was turned away.

The POWs in the camp hospital lay on the floor elbow to elbow and only one medic – out of the six medics assigned to care for 50 sick POWs – was healthy enough to care for them. When a representative of the Philippine Red Cross stated they could supply a 150-bed hospital for the camp, he was slapped in the face by a Japanese lieutenant.

The Manila Society – which was a branch of the Philippine Red Cross – collected a great quantity of clothing, medicines, powdered milk, marmalade, and oatmeal and delivered it to the Red Cross which was under Japanese control. They were told they could help make juices and packages of sweet coconut for the POWs and did so. When they were finished, the Japanese stated that it was too good for the Americans and that the packages would be given to their soldiers.

Each morning, the bodies of the dead were found all over the camp and were carried to the hospital and placed underneath it. The bodies lay there for two or three days before they were buried in the camp cemetery by other POWs who were suffering from dysentery and/or malaria. To clean the ground under the hospital, the bodies were moved to one side, the ground was scraped and lime was spread over it. The bodies were placed in the cleaned area, and the area they had lain was scraped and lime was spread over it. At one point, 80 bodies lay under the hospital awaiting burial.

The dead were carried to the cemetery in litters and placed in a grave with four other POWs. It was not unusual for a POW working this detail to die and be put into the grave with the other dead. Before they were buried, the dead were stripped of their clothing, which was boiled in hot water and then given to another POW who needed clothing.

When the POWs returned to the cemetery in the morning to dig graves for the men who had died during the night, they found the arms and legs of the dead sticking out of the ground and wild dogs pulling on them. The men would chase off the dogs, knock the arms and legs down, and rebury them.

A Japanese clerk, Mr. Nishimura, was in charge of giving work details assignments to the POWs. It was stated he was the camp interpreter and a member of the diplomatic corps. Work details were sent out on a daily basis. Each day, the American doctors gave a list of names to the Japanese of the POWs who were healthier enough to work. If the quota of POWs needed to work could not be met, the Japanese put those POWs who were sick but could walk, to work. When these men returned to the camp many died. The death rate among the POWs reached 50 men dying a day. 

Documents from after the war state that some of the Japanese assigned to the camp had drug problems which may have contributed to the abusive treatment of the POWs. POWs stated that they noticed that at times the guards had glassy eyes and seemed that their speech was slurred. It also was stated that the Japanese government ordered those soldiers caught abusing drugs be executed. The document also stated that the Japanese government went to great lengths to cover the problem up.

Since the death rate at the camp was extremely high, Ben volunteered to go out on a bridge-building detail to get out of the camp. The POWs on the detail called it The Bridge Building Detail since the POWs rebuilt bridges that had been destroyed – during the American retreat – for the Japanese Marine Engineers. (There was more than one detail that rebuilt bridges.) The Japanese commanding officer was Captain Wakamori and his second in command was Lt. Miyazato. The ranking American officer on the detail was Lt. Col. Ted Wickord who had commanded the 192nd Tank Battalion. Wickord was given the job of selecting the POWs who went out on the detail and filled it with as many members of the tank group as he could put on it. Of the 300 POWs on the detail 275 were from the tank group. When the Japanese figured out what he was doing, they stopped him. 

The detail left Camp O’Donnell on May 1st, and the Japanese engineers running the detail treated the POWs better than the POWs on other details. The Japanese commanding officer was Captain Wakamori and his second in command was Lt. Miyasato both had gone to college in the United States. It was stated that they allowed the POWs to roam the barrio without guards but the POWs could not go beyond the boundaries of the barrio. The Japanese also did not stop the Filipinos from giving food to the POWs. The food was good but not enough so men still quickly came down with beriberi, dysentery, and yellow jaundice. A Filipino doctor was allowed to treat the sick every day, and the Japanese allowed the POWs to take part in two celebrations in the barrio. During these fiestas, the POWs were asked to sing songs and the Japanese also sang their songs. 

Once out of the camp, the POWs were broken into four detachments of 80 men each which were divided into four squads of 20 men. One squad wore pink armbands, one blue, one white, and one green. The POWs had to wear the armbands at all times. In all, the detail rebuilt 13 bridges that had been destroyed during the retreat into Bataan. The detachment was first sent to Calauan. There, the POWs were amazed by the concern shown to them by the Filipino people. The townspeople arranged for their doctors and nurses to care for the POWs and give them medication.

The work was hard, and one of the hardest jobs on the detail was driving pilings into the river banks. This the men did by hand by cranking up a pile driver that dropped a weight onto the piling. It appears six men worked the pile driver and were divided into teams of two men. One team of two men operated the pile driver. Each man cranked part of a handle on the winch that lifted a heavy weight 18 to 20 feet above the pile. When the weight was released, the weight fell and hit the piling and drove it into the riverbank. The POWs rotated so they had a rest, but because they were underfed, they tired quickly, and by the end of the work day, the POWs were exhausted.

Daily, about 20 POWs were healthy enough to work. At some point, another group of 40 POWs arrived from Cabanatuan. Malaria in particular began to take its toll on them. The Filipinos left bundles of cinchona bark with instructions on boiling it to make a syrup that was effective against malaria and stopped the spread of malaria. The POWs were also often sick with beriberi and dysentery. 

The Japanese pressed the local Filipinos into working on the bridge. The detail had a detachment of 200 Filipinos, but the hard and most difficult work was always given to the Americans. The Japanese treated them just like they treated the POWs. One reason was that at night something always seemed to happen that slowed down the work on the bridge. Equipment that worked perfectly well the day before would malfunction for no reason or completely break down. The pile drivers were sabotaged so once the weight was in position, it could not be released.  

One Japanese guard liked to abuse the POWs. One day, Joseph “Mule” Henderson and Field Reed had the job of pushing debris away from the pilings that the POWs were placing in the river. To do this job, they used long bamboo poles. The guard arrived and proceeded to abuse them. One of the men took the bamboo pole and hit the guard. The two men used their bamboo poles as weapons and killed the guard. After the guard was dead, they dumped his body into the river. When the Japanese came looking for the guard, the two POWs said that he had been with them earlier in the day but he had left sometime earlier.

It is known that it was in this barrio that the POWs and Japanese played their first baseball game against each other. The Japanese engineer in charge of the detail played for both teams. No one seemed to recall who won the game, but it was said the POWs cheered for both teams.

While at Calauan, the POWs got word that one of the POWs on the sawmill detail had escaped. The word was that ten men from the detail would be executed. Col. Wickord was sent to the sawmill to witness the execution and warn his men about the consequences. When he returned, he informed his men that the commanding officer had been told to select ten men for execution. The officer had a terrible time doing this and finally chose the five men who slept to the escapee’s right and the five men who slept to his left. The officer surmised that the night the man had escaped one of them must have heard something and could have prevented it.

The “selected” were made to dig their own graves. One pleaded with the ranking American officer to do something. All he could tell the man was that there was nothing he could do. Another regretted that he would never see Denver again. One of the men was the brother of another man on the detail. Even though other POWs volunteered to take his place, the Japanese would not allow it. The men were offered blindfolds but refused them. They were then shot. After falling into their graves, the Japanese shot them again.

On May 15, 1942, the Filipinos began to collect a large amount of food. When the Filipinos had enough food, they held a special meal for the POWs at the local Catholic church on June 1. Just before the POWs were sent to Batangas to rebuild other bridges, an order of Catholic Sisters – who had been recently freed from custody – invited the Japanese commander and Lt. Col. Wickord and twelve POWs for a dinner the last night in the barrio. Six of the POWs were Prostitutes and six were Catholic.

Capt. Wakamori was supposed to attend the dinner but became ill. Before the POWs marched to the church he said to them, “Men, you’re on your honor. You are at liberty for the day.” During the dinner, the local Catholic priest walked among the prisoners dropping packs of cigarettes on the floor for them. To signal them about what he was doing, the priest looked down to the ground so that the POWs looked down and picked up a pack of cigarettes. The Filipinos were allowed to give the leftover food to the POWs who had not attended the meal. During the dinner, the local Catholic priest walked among the prisoners dropping packs of cigarettes on the floor for them. To signal them about what he was doing, the priest looked down to the ground. The POWs looked down and picked up a pack of cigarettes.

It was while on this detail that his family received a message from the War Department. 

Dear Mrs. B. Saccone:

         According to War Department records, you have been designated as the emergency addressee of First Sergeant Ero R. Saccone, 20, 900, 645, who, according to the latest information available, was serving in the  Philippine Islands at the time of the final surrender. 

         I deeply regret that it is impossible for me to give you more information than is contained in this letter.  In the last days before the surrender of Bataan, there were casualties which were not reported to the War Department.  Conceivably the same is true of the surrender of Corregidor and possibly other islands of the Philippines.  The Japanese Government has indicated its intention of conforming to the terms of the Geneva Convention with respect to the interchange of information regarding prisoners of war.  At some future date, this Government will receive through Geneva a list of persons who have been taken prisoners of war.  Until that time the War Department cannot give you positive information. 

         The War Department will consider the persons serving in the Philippine Islands as “missing in action” from the date of surrender of Corregidor, May 7, 1942, until definite information to the contrary is received.  It is to be hoped that the Japanese Government will communicate a list of prisoners of war at an early date.  At that time you will be notified by this office in the event that his name is contained in the list of prisoners of war.  In the case of persons known to have been present in the Philippines and who are not reported to be prisoners of war by the Japanese Government, the War Department will continue to carry them as “missing in action” in the absence of information to the contrary, until twelve months have expired.  At the expiration of twelve months and in the absence of other information the War Department is authorized to make a final determination.

         Recent legislation makes provision to continue the pay and allowances of persons carried in a “missing” status for a period not to exceed twelve months;  to continue, for the duration of the war, the pay and allowances of persons known to have been captured by the enemy; to continue allotments made by missing personnel for a period of twelve months and allotments or increase allotments made by persons by the enemy during the time they are so held;  to make new allotments or increase allotments to certain dependents defined in Public Law 490, 77th Congress.  The latter dependents generally include the legal wife, dependent children under twenty-one years of age, and dependent mother, or such dependents as having been designated in official records.  Eligible dependents who can establish a need for financial assistance and are eligible to receive this assistance the amount allotted will be deducted from pay which would otherwise accrue to the credit of the missing individual.

                                                                                                                                                                     Very Truly yours

                                                                                                                                                                            J. A. Ulio (signed) 
                                                                                                                                                                       Major General
                                                                                                                                                                   The Adjutant General
   

When the bridge was finished the POWs moved to Batangas where they lived in a two-floor school. The Japanese lived on the first floor and the POWs lived on the second floor. Bernard Fitzpatrick, 194th, stated that the building was clean and the POWs could look out of the windows and see the harbor. He also said that the building had lush lawns around it and the POWs were allowed to sleep outside in good weather. Many of the POWs ended up with dysentery from the water. Once again, the people of the town did whatever they could to help the Americans. An order of Roman Catholic sisters brought the POWs food and clothing that they scrounged up. Because of the work, most of the uniforms of the POWs had disintegrated. 

The POWs found a map of the world. On the map, the POWs pointed to Japan which their guards recognized. They then pointed to the United States – and included Canada – and said “America.” By the looks on the guards’ faces, the POWs knew they had gotten the message. The geography lesson ended when a Japanese sergeant saw what the POWs were doing.

The POWs arrived at the bridge to work and saw the Japanese running around. All they could tell was that something had agitated them. When they got closer to the bridge, they looked down and saw the heads of two Japanese soldiers on poles. They had been killed by Filipino guerrillas during the night.

When the work was finished on the bridge, the POWs boarded trucks and went to Candelaria to rebuild their final bridges. Unlike the other barrios, the Filipinos kept their distance from the POWs. At this barrio, the POWs slept in a coconut processing mill with a fence around it. During the nights, since they were locked in, the building grew hot. The food at this time also deteriorated in its quality and many of the POWs came down with malaria, scurvy, and pellagra. The Japanese brought the Filipino doctor from Calauan to the work site and he told the Japanese to give the POWs limes. The POWs’ health improved after they received the limes. While the POWs worked, the Filipinos were allowed to bring them food which also resulted in their health improving.

The POWs found themselves repairing a concrete bridge that had been extensively damaged. Instead of replacing it with a wooden bridge, they repaired the existing bridge. The sand and cement were brought to a large flat-bottomed box with wheelbarrows and dumped into the box. Buckets of water were dumped into it from buckets into the box. They then mixed it by hand with Japanese shovels. This was the hardest part of the job. When the work on this bridge was finished, they built a wooden bridge near the barrio. It was said they built 30 bridges while on the detail.

It is known that the POWs took part in a baseball game there against the Japanese. According to Fitzpatrick, the game ended when a Japanese colonel from Manila arrived for an inspection and decided the POWs were unworthy to play against the Japanese soldiers.

The Japanese held a ceremony commemorating the bridge and the POWs were in the audience. They then were taken to a market in San Pablo where the Japanese guards bought them fruit and sweet cakes that they put into their sacks. They then returned to the warehouse and were given a week off to rest before they boarded the trucks and were taken to Cabanatuan which had opened to replace Camp O’Donnell. When they arrived at Cabanatuan, none of the POWs were searched because their bags had tags on them – issued by the Japanese engineers – that allowed them to be brought into the camp without being searched. Inside the bags, many of the POWs carried food and other items that would have been taken from them if they had been searched.

From September through December, the Japanese began assigning numbers to the POWs. The first men known to receive POW numbers were the men on the Tottori Maru which sailed for Japan in September. It is not known when, but Ero received the number 1-08336 which was his POW no matter where he was sent in the Philippines. 

The Japanese announced to the POWs in the camp that on October 14th the daily food ration for each POW would be 550 grams of rice, 100 grams of meat, 330 grams of vegetables, 20 grams of fat, 20 grams of sugar, 15 grams of salt, and 1 gram of tea. In reality, the POWs noted that the meals were wet rice and rice coffee for breakfast, Pechi green soup and rice for lunch, and Mongo bean soup, Carabao meat, and rice for dinner.

The work day started an hour before dawn when the POWs were awakened. They then lined up and bongo (roll call) was taken. The POWs quickly learned to count off quickly in Japanese because the POWs who were slow to respond were hit with a heavy rod. A half-hour before dawn was breakfast, and at dawn, they went to work. Those working on details near the camp returned to the camp for lunch, a tin of rice, at 11:30 AM and then returned to work. The typical workday lasted 10 hours.  

The POWs were organized in groups on November 11th. Group I was made up of all the enlisted men who had been captured on Bataan. Group II was the POWs who had come from Camp 3, and Group III was composed of all Naval and Marine personnel from both Camps 1 and 3 and any civilians in the camp. It was also at this time that an attempt was made to stop the spread of disease. The POWs dug deep drainage ditches, and sump holes for only water, and the garbage began to be buried, and the grass in the camp was cut. Fr. Antonio Bruddenbruck, a German Catholic priest, came to the camp – assisted by Mrs. Escoda – with packages from friends and relatives in Manila on November 12th. There was also medicine and books for the POWs. One hundred POWs worked on Sunday, November 15th digging latrines and sump holes. Since Sunday was a day off, Lt. Col. Curtis Beecher, USMC, made sure each man received 5 cigarettes. On November 16th, a Pvt. Peter Laniauskas was shot trying to escape. Two other POWs were tried by the Japanese for being involved in the escape attempt. One man received 20 days in solitary confinement and the other 30 days. Pvt. Donald K. Russell, on November 20th, was caught trying to reenter the camp at 12:30 A.M. He had left the camp at 8:30 P.M. and secured a bag of canned food by claiming he was a guerrilla. He was executed in the camp cemetery at 12;30 P.M. on November 21st. The Japanese gave out a large amount of old clothing – that came from Manila – to the POWs on November 22nd. On November 23rd, the Japanese wanted to start a farm and needed 750 POWs to do the initial work on it. It was noted that there were only 603 POWs healthy enough to work.

Fr. Bruddenbruck returned on December 10th without proper authorization from the authorities in Manila so he was turned away.  He had brought a truckload of medicine and food for the POWs. It was estimated by the POWs that he spent $300.00 for fuel to make the trip. A POW Pvt. Art Self was beaten so badly on December 12th, that he died. Fr. Bruddenbruck returned on December 24th with two truckloads of presents for the men and a gift bag for each. This time he was allowed into the camp. The next day, Christmas, the POWs received 2½ Red Cross boxes. In each box was milk in some form, corn beef, fish, stew beef, sugar, meat and vegetable, tea, and chocolate. The POWs also received bulk corn beef, sugar, meat and vegetables, stew, raisins, dried fruit, and cocoa which they believed would last them three months. The POWs also were given four days off from work. It should be mentioned that Fr. Buddenbroucke was executed after he was caught snuggling messages to the POWs and from them.

Each month on the eighth, the Japanese read the Japanese declaration of war on the United States to the POWs. This usually got them wound up and the POWs knew that the number of beatings they received would increase. On January 11th, the POWs watched and heard the explosions as Japanese dive bombers bombed and strafed something about 30 kilometers away. They later heard a barrio was attacked killing 102 men, women, and children and wounding 60. On the 13th, the commissary supplies ended. According to the Japanese, this was because guerrillas had burned down half of Cabanatuan which included the warehouse where the supplies were stored. The Japanese issued toilet kits to the POWs on January 14th that had to be shared by four POWs. On January 18th, the same area was bombed again by the Japanese. The Japanese issued Red Cross Boxes to the POWs on January 24th which had to be shared by two POWs. Twelve hundred POWs left the camp on a work detail on January 27th. 

The Japanese installed a radio in the hospital so the POWs could hear their version of the war. During February they heard that the Russians were driving the Germans from Russia but Japan would continue to fight on its own. They also heard the Allies were winning the European War and that there had been a battle in the Marshall Islands between the Japanese and Americans.

Multiple work details left the camp each day and returned each evening. Some details were small while others had 1,255 to 1,450 POWs on them. Men who worked near the camp came back at about 11:30 AM for a tin of rice and then returned to work again to finish out a 10-hour day. After they had supper, there wasn’t much for the POWs to do. The Red Cross had sent books, but the Japanese censors took them away a few days after they arrived. The POWs received Christmas telegrams on February 7th. The POWs watched the Marx Brothers’ movie “Room Service” on the 11th and many Japanese propaganda news clips. It was recorded on February 12th that there had not been a death in the camp in eight days. Three POWs died the next day. The Japanese also ordered that the POWs turn in all radios to them, but it is not known if they received any. POWs who did not have blankets were issued blankets by the Japanese on February 22nd. A program was started by the POWs to stop the spread of dysentery. For every full milk can of flies, the POWs turned in, they received cigarettes in return. It was noted that on March 3rd, 12 million flies had been turned in and 320 rats had been turned in.

During his time as a POW, his parents received a POW card from him. In the card, he asked for vitamins, clothing, and canned food. While a POW at Cabanatuan, he became ill and was admitted to the camp hospital on Friday, February 5, 1943, and again on Saturday, April 10, 1943. No reason for his admittance or date of discharge was given.

A large POW detachment also started work to beautify the camp cemetery, on April 1st. Two POWs, PFC Holland Stobach and Pvt. Ernest O. Kelly escaped while working on the water detail outside the camp on the 6th. They had an hour’s start on the Japanese and it appears they were successful at evading the guards. The only punishment given to the other POWs was the show they expected to see was canceled. On the 11th, the workday changed for the POWs. Revelle was at 5:30 A.M. with breakfast now at 6:00 until 7:00 when they left for work and worked until 10:30 A.M. when they returned to the camp for lunch at noon. They returned to work and worked from 1:00 P.M. until 6:00 P.M. Dinner was at 6:30. Roll call was taken at 7:00 P.M. and again at 9:00 P.M. Pvt. John B. Trujillo who was one of the POWs assigned to guard against escapes attempted to escape but was caught. At 9:00 A.M. he was taken to the schoolyard in the barrio of Cabanatuan and executed.

On May 19, 1943, his mother learned that he was a POW.

MRS JENNIE VAN CLEESE
202 HARVEST
SALINAS CA

REPORT JUST RECEIVED THROUGH INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS STATES THAT YOUR SON FIRST SERGEANT ERO R SACCONE 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. Jennie Van Cleese
           202 Harvest Street
                   Salinas, California

               Report has been received that your son, First Sergeant Ero R. Saccone 20,900,645, infantry, is now a prisoner of war of the Japanese Government in the Philippine Islands.  This will confirm my telegram of May 19, 1943. 

               The Provost Marshal General, Prisoner of War Information Bureau, Washington, D. C. the address to which the mail may be sent.   Any future correspondence in connection with his status as a prisoner of war should be addressed to that office.

                                                                                                                                                                   Very Truly Yours 
                                                                                                                                                                         J. A.Ulio 

A third message followed quickly.

Mrs. Jennie Saccone
          202 Harvest Street
                  Salinas, California

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:

1st Sgt. Ero R. Saccone, U.S. Army
Interned in the Philippine Islands
C/O Japanese Red Cross, Tokyo, Japan
Via New York, New York

Packages cannot be sent to the Orient at this time. When transportation facilities are available a package permit will be issued you.

Further information will be forwarded you as soon as it is received.

                                                                                                                                                Sincerely

                                                                                                                                               Howard F. Bresee
                                                                                                                                               Colonel, CMP
                                                                                                                                               Chief Information Bureau

The Japanese allowed the POWs, on May 30th, to hold a memorial service to honor the nearly 2,600 men who had died. (This number is the total number of deaths at both Camp O’Donnell and Cabanatuan.) At 9:00 AM, the POWs marched to the camp cemetery which was slightly over a half-mile from the camp. The services were conducted by Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant chaplains. The Japanese camp commandant presented a wreath. The POWs choir sang several hymns, the POWs were called to attention, and taps were blown as they saluted.

Another POW, Conley, escaped from the garden detail on July 11, 1943, and was captured in a barrio. At about 11:00 PM, there was a lot of noise in the camp. The next morning, at the camp morgue, POWs described what they saw. Conley’s jaw had been crushed as was the top of his skull, his teeth had all been knocked out with a rifle butt, his left leg had been crushed, and he had been bayoneted in the eyes and scrotum.

The POWs organized shows for the other prisoners as a way to break the monotony of camp life. During his time in the camp, there was an incident with the camp band at Cabanatuan. The band always tried to learn new songs to play for the POWs. One of the songs the band learned to play was “Paper Moon.” The only problem was that the song had not become popular until after the soldiers had become POWs. When the Japanese realized this, they knew the POWs had a radio hidden in the camp. The Japanese searched the camp vigorously to find the radio and tortured many men, but they never did find the radio.

Also during July, the names of 500 POWs were posted, and on July 21st, the POWs were issued new shoes, a suit of “Philippine Blues” and were 2 cans of corn beef and 3 cans of milk. They were informed they would be taking a 21-day trip.  The detachment left the camp that night. As it turned out, when they arrived in Manila, they were used in the Japanese propaganda film The Dawn of Freedom to show how cruel the Americans were to the Filipinos. After this, they were sent to Japan on the Clyde Maru.

From a guard tower, a drunk Japanese guard shot 2nd Lt. Robert Huffcutt while he was working in his garden. After shooting him from the tower he went into the garden and shot him a second time. The guard claimed Huffcutt had tried to escape although he was nowhere near the camp fence.

Any POW who was healthy worked on the airfield detail or on the farm detail which had started in November 1942. The POWs cleared the area that they called “the farm” and planted camotes, cassava, taro, sesame, and various greens. The Japanese used most of the food for themselves. When the POWs arrived at the farm, they would enter a shed. As they came out, it was common for them to be hit over the heads by the guards. Although the Japanese told the POWs what they grew would supplement their meals, they took most of what was grown for themselves. The POWs ate the tender tips of the sweet potato plants which angered the Japanese since it stopped the plants’ growth. 

The POWs had breakfast a half hour before dawn and at dawn, the men went to work.  Each morning, after arriving at the farm, the POWs went into a tool shed to get their tools. As they left the shed, the guards hit them on their heads. This was considered the most abusive of the work details with the POWs receiving the worst beatings. Another guard, “Smiling Sam” would tell the POWs he was taking a break and then turned his back to them. While he was on his break, they could rest or steal food. Before he ended his break he warned them that his break was over and when he turned around, they were all working.

The detail was under the command of “Big Speedo” who spoke very little English. When he wanted the POWs to work faster, he told the POWs “speedo.” Although he was known to have a temper, the POWs thought he was fair. Another guard was “Little Speedo” who was smaller and also used “speedo” when he wanted the POWs to work faster. He punished the POWs by making them kneel on stones. “Smiley” was a Korean guard who always had a smile on his face but could not be trusted. He was the meanest of the guards and beat men up for no reason with the club. Any prisoner who he believed was not working hard enough got knocked over with it.

The second in command was a guard the POWs called “Donald Duck” because he talked constantly and was described as being unpredictable and would beat POWs at a whim. He knew the POWs called him Donald Duck and they told him that Donald Duck was a big American movie star. One day, he saw a Donald Duck cartoon while in Manila and came looking for the POWs who used the name. The POWs stated they stayed out of his way for days.

Each morning, after arriving at the farm, the POWs went into a tool shed to get their tools. As they left the shed, the guards hit them on their heads. This was considered the most abusive of the work details with the POWs receiving the worst beatings. Beatings were a frequent occurrence and the POWs were hit with sticks, rifle butts, punched, slapped, and kicked. This was done because the guards believed the men were not working hard enough or because the guards simply felt like beating the POWs. From June 1942 until August 1944, it was a common practice for a dozen POWs on the farm detail to be randomly picked out and beaten with a hoe or pick handle.

Almost every POW in the camp worked on the detail at some point. Weeds were removed from the fields by hand, and the POWs were required to bend over and pick them. If a POW was tired and went down to one knee or squatted, he was hit with a club. The hits always were across the spine or on the ribs.

His wife also received two POW postcards from him a few months later. The first one arrived in August 1943, and the second arrived in September 1943. In the second one, he said he was well, not under medical treatment, and his health was good. He also asked that Gene, Grandma, and Jeanette be taken care of. He sent his love to Rosa, Julius, Eddie, Vesta, Tom, and Mother. He finally gave his best regards to all his friends.

C Company’s guidon had been brought to the Philippines by members of the company.  When Bataan was surrendered on April 9th, Sgt William Braye tied it around his waist so that it wouldn’t be captured by the Japanese. He kept it hidden until he was selected to go out on a work detail and gave it to Saccone – at about this time – to protect. For the members of the company, it had become a symbol of homeland freedom.

From medical records kept at the camp, Ben was tested for entamoeba histolytica which caused amebic dysentery. The test results were negative, so he was returned to the POW side of the camp. 

In August, the rainy season had started, and all the extra food was long gone. The Japanese planned to move the hospital to the same area as the healthy POWs to reduce the size of the camp so they could reduce the number of guards. On September 22nd, the hospital was moved. The POWs also were ordered to stop cooking their food. For the sick, this was bad news since meals for them were being cooked individually. The POWs adopted a system where a group placed an order for food 24 hours before they wanted the food. The supplies were debited from that group’s supplies.

Some sources state it was in September 1943 while others state it was in January 1944 that a new detail was sent out to work at Cabanatuan Airfield which had been the home of a Philippine Army Air Corps unit and had been known as Maniquis Airfield. The airfield was seven miles southeast of the camp and the POWs marched to it and from it each day. It was reported that 1,500 POWs were used on the detail in the construction of runways and revetments. Those POWs working on the airfield dug dirt and moved it to where the Japanese wanted it with wheelbarrows and small mining cars. The POWs worked at the airfield until March 1944 when the detail ended. A guard the POWs called “Air Raid” was in charge of the detail. It was said that the POWs had to watch him but that he was usually fair.

Some sources state it was in September 1943 while others state it was in January 1944 that a new detail was sent out to work at Cabanatuan Airfield which had been the home of a Philippine Army Air Corps unit and had been known as Maniquis Airfield. The airfield was seven miles southeast of the camp and the POWs marched to it and from it each day. It was reported that 1,500 POWs were used on the detail in the construction of runways and revetments. Those POWs working on the airfield dug dirt and moved it to where the Japanese wanted it with wheelbarrows and small mining cars. The POWs worked at the airfield until March 1944 when the detail ended. A guard the POWs called “Air Raid” was in charge of the detail. It was said that the POWs had to watch him but that he was usually fair.

An order was issued on October 3rd that all good khaki garments, hats, rifle belts, and field bags they had must be turned over to the Japanese. The next day, the Japanese sent 1300 POWs to Bongabong in captured U.S. trucks. On one of the front bumpers of a 6 by 6 truck were the markings “Hq 192nd.” The POWs were back in the camp by 8:00 P.M. and to the surprise of the other POWs, their possessions were returned to them. It turned out that the Japanese were still shooting the movie, and the POWs were used as extras in the movie. Also during the month, the POWs noted that the food they were growing on the camp farm was being sent to Manila. On October 18th, 103 telegrams were brought to the camp but only 21 men present in the camp received them. It appeared that other men were out on work details. Four days later, 175 telegrams arrived at the camp, but only 65 were distributed. It was noted that some had been received in Tokyo that same month.

One of the changes that took place in January 1944 was that the POWs on the work details were no longer beaten. The farm detail where the POWs received the worst beatings was considered the best detail to be on. The POWs received in January another Red Cross box around the 19th. Inside were 3 cans of beef, 4 cans of butter, 1 spam, 1 purity loaf, 1 salmon, 1 Pate, 1 canned milk, and jam. In addition, the POWs received packs of cigarettes. Those who received ¼ of sugar on December 7 received ½ a pound of cocoa.

During February, the rumor spread among the POWs that the Marshall Islands and Gibert Islands had been retaken. They also heard that the Marianas Islands had been bombed and that there had been a sea Battle in the Java Sea. They also heard that the Filipino food ration had been cut to 120 grams of rice a day and that no one was allowed to leave Manila. 

Ben remained at Cabanatuan until March 6, 1944, but before he left the camp, he gave the company guidon to S/Sgt. Emil Morello to protect.  The POWs boarded trucks and rode them eight miles to the Barrio of Cabanatuan where they boarded a train. The boxcars were crowded and the train also hauled logs. The POWs left the train and marched to Bilibid Prison which the Japanese used as a clearing house for POWs leaving the Philippines. Once there, they were given a rudimental physical to determine if they were healthy enough to be sent to Japan. POWs with dysentery were automatically removed from the detachment. The POWs remained in the prison until March 24th when they were moved to the Port Area.

Lt. Col. Arthur G. Christensen stated that the POWs boarded a small ship, the Taikoku Maru, and were put into the upper part of the number two hold. They were the ship’s only passengers. Ore and camphor logs were also loaded onto the ship before the ship sailed the same day. The hold was crowded but if the POWs crowded together they could lie down. Unlike other ships, the POWs were allowed to go on deck at will to use the latrine which was a shed built over the side of the ship. It was said the small ship was 5,000 to 6,000 tons.

The POWs were fed relatively well. The POWs cooked the food on deck on halves of 55-gallon drums that were used for wood-burning stoves. Large cauldrons were placed on the drums to cook the rice. This worked well as long as the weather was good. Water was in short supply, but there was enough water to wash mess kits. The ship sailed through a storm which resulted in a quarter of the POWs getting wet because the hatch cover leaked. It was also impossible for food to be cooked during the storm. After the storm the POWs who had been under the hatch moved to other areas making it impossible to lie down so they slept in shifts or sitting up. The temperature grew colder and many men had colds, the flu, and in one case a POW had pneumonia.

It arrived at Takao, Formosa, on March 27th and loaded more cargo. Since the storm caused the hold to get wet, many of the POWs ended up with colds or the flu. The ship sailed from Takao on April 3rd and went to Osaka arriving on April 9th, but the POWs remained in the ship’s hold until April 10 when they disembarked. As they left the ship – were handed a chip of wood with a color on it. The color determined what camp they would be sent to in Japan. The POWs in his group took an 18-hour train ride arriving at the camp on April 11th.

In Japan, he was held as a POW at Tokyo #8 (originally known as Tokyo 12-D) which was also known as Hitachi. The camp supplied labor for a Hitachi copper mine. The camp was new and the thirteen wooden barracks the POWs lived in had just been finished. Like in other camps, the barracks were flimsy with windows at the rear. The roofs were covered with tree bark for shingles. Some buildings were 60 feet by 16 feet and housed 32 POWs each. There were three buildings that were 140 feet by 16 feet that housed 68 POWs each. In each barracks, there was a small wash area at one end with spigots that the POWs used to wash their clothes. There was a small pit for heat and when they received it, the POWs received four, one inch by two inches, pieces of charcoal to heat the barracks. Many nights the POWs went to sleep with their clothes on since they did not receive the charcoal.

There was a guardhouse and a barracks for the guards, and a camp office for the commandant. There were also two buildings that were used as storerooms, a camp kitchen but no mess hall, a washroom, a building for the American headquarters, a small hospital building, and a carpenter’s shop.

The latrines were typical for a Japanese POW camp and were benches over a trench. The POWs were required to empty out the trench and spread the excrement in the camp garden. Since no lime was provided to sanitize them, flies and maggots were everywhere in them. When it rained, the latrines flooded the camp and the entire camp stunk. The POWs could take a bath each day after working in a wooden tub that was three feet deep, six feet wide, and 12 feet long. The water was heated by a stove.

POWs were assigned to the camp kitchen and supervised by the Japanese guards. The food was mainly barley, millet, maize, and rice. Once in a while, they received a small piece of meat or fish. If fish or meat were given to the POWs, the amount of rice they received was reduced. Occasionally, they received the tops of vegetables or greens that were used to make soup. The food was distributed in buckets carried to the barracks. Each POW had two bowls and chopsticks. If the chopsticks broke, they could not be replaced.

The hospital was a small building that could hold eighteen POWs. When the POWs arrived, the medical supplies brought with them from the Philippines were confiscated. The American doctor attempted to care for the sick with only the medicine they received at Bilibid. Only ten percent of the POWs in the camp were allowed to be sick by the Hitachi Mining Company. The sick in the hospital had their food rations reduced so many went to work sick. Beriberi, malaria, dysentery, pneumonia, and skin ulcers were the most common ailments in the camp. POWs who needed surgery were taken to the company hospital and a Japanese doctor performed the surgery.

Beatings were common in the camp, and it wasn’t unusual for the POWs to be beaten until they were unconscious. The POWs were revived and beaten again until they were unconscious. Belts, belt buckles, and clubs were used on the POWs. The POWs were also burnt with a lit carbide lamp on their faces. The POWs were also made to stand at attention for long periods of time while holding a bucket of water in each hand. POWs were also made to stand at attention in the cold with little clothing. As they stood there, they were beaten and clubbed and kicked. Other POWs were ordered to beat the men with their fists. It also was not unusual for the guards to force to practice saluting or do arduous military exercises on their rest day or after working all day.

In April 1944, a shortwave Japanese propaganda radio broadcast. made by Saccone, was intercepted and reported to the Federal Communications Commission, who forwarded it to his wife. In the message, he said:

“My dearest one: I received your mail and it was like a message from heaven. I am the proudest man of my little family here, and I pray that I may return home to you soon. Jeanette must be a big and very cute little girl by now. She is the apple of her daddy’s eye now, I’m sure. Tell her that daddy will take her for the ride she has always asked for.

“My regards to George Hunter and all my friends. I received letters from Irene, mother, and Mrs. Van Cleave from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Mrs. Van Claeve was his mother.) 

“Please send me some pictures of you and Jeanette and Jeannie. The boys have received pictures in their mail. Tell mother to save me some vegetables from her garden because I can eat every kind now. Give my love to all the family. My undying love to you, my darling, and may God bring us together soon. — Ben Saccone” 

The Americans only remained in the camp until August 14, 1944, when they were transferred. From there, he was sent to  Tokyo #1-B which was also known as Kawasaki. The camp was located in the mountains and received as much as 33 feet of snow during the winter. The POWs in the camp were used as miners in a zinc and lead mine.

After arriving at the camp, they received a thin blanket that was made of cotton or wood fibers to use in wooden barracks that were poorly heated. The Red Cross blankets, or blankets the POWs brought to the camp, were confiscated and given to guards who had as many as eight blankets to cover themselves with at night. The POW barracks were also infested with lice, fleas, and rats. Each barracks had four big rooms and two small bunks at the end of each building. There were 19 straw mats and 16 lockers in each barracks. When a window broke, it was not replaced allowing wind to blow into the barracks even though there was glass available. The sick often slept together on a mat for warmth. The POWs slept 24 men in a room. The blankets they received were not much protection against the cold. The barracks were heated by coal-burning stoves, but only two handfuls of coal were issued each day. To prevent the buildings from collapsing in the winter, the POWs had to clear the roofs of snow each time it snowed.

Food for the POWs was poor and always the same every day. A small bowl of rice and miso soup three times a day. When rice became scarce it was replaced by Korean barley rice.  The POWs’ lunches were carried in a large wooden tub from the camp to the worksite. It was not unusual for the food to have rat droppings in it, but the POWs ate it. The food that came in the Red Cross packages was misappropriated by the Japanese for their own use. The same was true for Red Cross medicine, clothing, and shoes. The camp commandant also prevented mail for the POWs from being delivered or he simply destroyed the mail. The same was done to letters or postcards mailed by the POWs.

In November 1944, the water pipe for the camp broke and the POWs went until March 1945, without water to wash their clothes or mess kits. When they could wash, they were given one-third of a bar of soap that was supposed to last them a month. The result was they were filthy and infested with lice and fleas. The latrines often overflowed which meant that maggots crawled on the ground around them. When the urinals overflowed, the urine overflowed into the POW barracks. Each POW received 30 sheets of toilet paper for one month.

The Japanese treatment of the POWs was brutal. If one POW broke a rule, all the POWs would be beaten, clubbed, or burned on their hands, necks, and abdomens. They were also made to stand nude, outside, in inclement weather. If the offense took place at the mine, the Japanese civilians were allowed to ridicule and deride the POW. When the Japanese heard war news of an air raid by the Americans, they selected eight or ten POWs and punished them. Afterward, they threw them into the guardhouse where the men were forgotten for days. The POWs also learned that when the Japanese called them out in the middle of the night for an inspection, it meant that the Japanese had suffered another defeat and that the Americans were getting closer.

Beatings in the camp happened daily. Corporal punishment was administered by the guards for the slightest reason. The POWs were beaten, kicked, hit with clubs, and suspended by their hands or feet. While they hung in the air, by their hands or feet, they were beaten. In November 1944, the POWs were beaten because a POW threw water out the window of the barracks. The guard beat them because he wanted to know who did it. In December 1944, a group of POWs violated a camp rule and were punched, hit with rifle butts, hit with bayonets, and forced to stand at attention while this was being done. They were also strung up by their hands and hung in the air as they were beaten. After the Japanese were finished, they were thrown into the guardhouse, without clothes or blankets, and fed one bowl of rice.

It was also not unusual for the POWs as part of their punishment to stand at attention in below-freezing temperatures wearing inadequate clothing for as long as 8 hours at a time. It is known this caused the death of at least one POW. Another punishment was to have a POW kneel on a box while holding a bucket of water above his head. While he was doing this, he was beaten until he was unconscious, revived with cold water, and beaten again. At one point, the camp commandant wanted the POWs to sign a document stating they had freely given up certain rights as POWs. When they refused, he lined them up before a firing squad and threatened to have them shot unless they agreed.

There was no real medical facility. The American medical staff had little to no medicine to treat the sick with since most of the Red Cross packages had been rifled through and about half of what was in the packages had been misappropriated by the Japanese. Dr. Hisakichi Tokuda also would cancel the requests for certain drugs made by the POW doctors. Since a certain number of POWs were needed for work each day, the sick, who could walk, were forced to work. Those who refused were beaten. In addition, the Japanese set a limit on the number of POWs who could be in the hospital at any time. At the same time, the Japanese refused to give the POWs the medicine and medical supplies sent by the Red Cross.

The sick POWs were put on “light duty” by the Japanese. To the Japanese “light duty” was going up a mountain and hauling green muck. As it turned out, this muck was contaminated and even the Japanese guards kept away from it. The prisoners noticed that nothing would grow where the muck was dumped. The prisoners worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Every two weeks they would get one day off.

This detail was not bad during the summer because the old supervisor would allow two of the six prisoners to look for edible plants. During the winter, the prisoners had to climb the mountain through snow that was four to five feet deep. Since the Japanese did not issue the shoes that were sent by the Red Cross, to protect their feet from frostbite, the POWs made socks from blackout curtains to put inside their canvas shoes. 

The healthy POWs worked for various companies loading and unloading boxcars at the Kawasaki Station. Documents indicated that the station was a shipping point for large amounts of food. When given the opportunity to steal food, the POWs did. They ate raw eggs and they ate oranges including the skins. They hid food in their clothing and took it back to camp. If they were caught they were severely beaten. It was said the Japanese civilians were kind to the POWs, but if they were caught showing kindness to them, they too were beaten.

This message was followed by a postcard from him in August 1944.

“I pray each night that you are in the best of health. Love to mother and all the family. Tell Eddie and Julius to take care of themselves. Kiss my darling daughter and tell her that daddy will be home someday. My undying love to you and the children.”

In November 1944, his wife learned he had been sent to Japan.

The POWs who were working on August 15th were told to stop working and return to the camp. The civilian overseers told them the war was over. The POWs officially learned of the Japanese surrender on August 16 when the ranking American officer was called to the camp commandant’s office. The commandant told him that the war was over and that American transports were coming to take the POWs to America.

Ben remained at Tokyo #1 until he was liberated on September 4, 1945, but his wife and family did not learn of his liberation until September 12th. He returned to the United States and remained hospitalized until September 1947. He and his wife added another daughter and a son to their family.

On the atomic bomb being dropped on the Japanese, he said, “I have no qualms about the atomic bomb. We never would have made it out alive. . . .They should have bombed more of it. . . .No, I never felt sorry about the bombing.”

Ben also recalled that one guard, Nagano, had been kind to the POWs. He found him years later and the two exchanged letters, gifts, and visited each other. He said of their relationship, “There are good and bad in both.”

Ben took a job with the U.S. Army’s Medical Department and was sent to Europe where he worked in U.S. Hospitals in Germany and France. He spent six years working at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington D. C. as the chief admitting officer where he met President Dwight Eisenhower, Nikita Khrushchev, and Winston Churchill. He then worked at Letterman Army Hospital in San Francisco. He retired from the Army on January 1, 1961, as a Chief Warrant Officer Fourth Class. On May 2, 1998, the Ero R. Saccone Armor Training Center was opened by the California National Guard at the Watsonville, California, airport. Ben was present for the dedication.

Ben returned to California and was involved in veteran affairs and resided in San Jose. Edward R. Saccone passed away at his grandson’s home in Fresno, California, on February 16, 2007, and was buried at Garden of Memories Memorial Park in Salinas, California.  

On a side note, while a POW, Ben was given the January 31, 1942, enlisted personnel day report for the 192nd Tank Battalion. The roster had been smuggled from POW camp to POW camp by a member of the 192nd. It is not known when and how he got it, but it is believed that the member of the 192nd who had it became ill and was dying when he gave the roster to Ben to protect. After the war, Ben gave the roster to Sgt. Albert Allen who had been a member of the 192nd. 

The photo at the bottom of the page was taken while he was a POW at Tokyo #1.

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