Heard

 

1st Lt. Willie Stokes Heard Jr.


    1st Lt. Willie S. Heard Jr. was born on September 8, 1913, to Willie S. Heard Sr. & Maud Howell-Heard in Quachita, Louisiana.  With his three brothers, one of whom was his twin, he grew up at 110 Filhiol Avenue and attended school in West Monroe, Louisiana.  He was a member of the ROTC program and graduated from Louisiana State University, in Baton Rouge in 1933, with this twin brother, Howell.  He was also commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army Reserves.  After college, he attended law school, passed the bar exam, and worked as a lawyer before being called up to federal service.

    Willie joined the 192nd Tank Battalion after maneuvers in Louisiana in the late summer of 1941.  It is not known if he was assigned to the battalion from the 753rd Tank Battalion which had been sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, to provide tanks, and men as replacements, to the battalion.  It is also possible that the joined the battalion on Angel Island.  Upon joining the battalion, he was assigned to B Company as the company's executive officer.

    Traveling west over four different train routes, the 192nd arrived in San Francisco, California, where they were ferried to Fort McDowell on Angel Island.  They received their inoculations for duty in the Philippine Islands from the battalion's medical detachment.  Men found to have minor medical conditions were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  Some men were simply replaced.

    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S. A. T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th.  During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP.   The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
    On Wednesday, November 5th, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and, another transport, the S. S. Calvin Coolidge.  Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th.  During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line.  On Saturday, November 15th, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country. During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The cruiser that was escorting the two transports revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out that the unknown ship was from a friendly country.
    When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day.  At one point, the ships passed an island at night and did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.  The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning.  At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.   
    When they arrived at the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward P. King, who made sure that everything was in order in their bivouac.  He made sure they had their Thanksgiving dinner, which turned out to be a watery stew served to them in their mess kits, before he had his dinner.  From this time on, the tankers would spend a little over two weeks preparing their equipment for use on maneuvers.
    On December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers.  Two crew members had to be with their tank at all times and received their meals from food trucks.  The morning of December 8, 1941, the tank crews were brought up to full strength at the perimeter of Clark Field.  Earlier that morning they had received word of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. 
    As they sat in their tanks and half-tracks they watched as American planes filled the sky.  At noon, the planes landed, to be refueled, and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45, the tankers watched as planes approached the airfield from the north.  When bombs began exploding on the runways, they knew the planes were Japanese.

    During the attack, the tankers could do little more than watch since they most of their weapons were of no use against aircraft except the .50 caliber machine guns on their tanks.  Some of the half-tracks had .50 caliber machine guns which fired at the planes.  For some strange reason, the most of the planes left the tanks alone.  Those that did go after the tanks had their bombs land between the tanks.  The battalion was credited with shooting down several planes.

    When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield.  The soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything that could carry the wounded was in use.  When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building.  Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
    That night, most men slept under their tanks since it was safer than sleeping in their tents.  They had no idea that they had slept their last night in a bed.  The battalion lived through two more heavy bombings on December 10 and 13th.
    On December 20th, the 192nd was ordered north toward Lingayen Gulf where Japanese troops were landing.   When the tank companies arrived at Rosario, there was not enough gasoline for the companies to proceed north.  This situation was caused by orders, that did not come from the Tank Group Headquarters which did not allow the tanks to refuel at Gerona.  A platoon of the company's tanks would fight the first tank battle of WWII, involving American tanks, on December 22nd at Lingayen Gulf.  The rest of the tank platoons fell back toward Damoritis where they were suppose to provide cover for withdrawing troops.

    On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta, but bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of river.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening but successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
    On December 25th, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th.
    The tankers were fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, while covering the withdrawal of the Philippine Army.  On December 28th withdrew to the Tarlec-Cabanatuan Line.  The night of December 28th and 29th they dropped back to the south bank of the Bamban River. 
    The battalion, on December 29th, withdrew down Route 5 and on December 31s/January 1st, covered the withdrawal of the Philippine Army from the Pampanga River.  While doing this the tanks covered both sides of the Calumpit Bridge.

    On January 1st, the tanks of the 194th were holding the Calumpit Bridge allowing the Southern Luzon forces to cross the bridge toward Bataan.  General Wainwright was attempting to hold the main Japanese force coming down Route 5 to prevent the troops from being cut off.  General MacArthur's chief of staff gave conflicting orders involving whose command the defenders were under which caused confusion.  Gen. Wainwright was not aware these orders had been given.
    Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River.  Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted.
    From January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.  It was also in January 1942, that the food ration was cut in half.  It was not too long after this was done that malaria, dysentery, and dengue fever began hitting the soldiers. 
    Both the 192nd and the 194th fell back to Lyic Junction on January 6th.  The night of January 6th/7th, the 192nd covered the withdrawal of the 194th over the Culis Creek.  After this was done, the 192nd crossed the bridge becoming the last unit to enter Bataan.  The bridge over the creek was blown after they crossed it.  Both battalions dropped back and bivouacked just south of the Pilar-Bagao Road, where they had their first break in a month. 
    It also at this time that the tanks received maintenance work from 17th Ordnance.  Their daily  rations were also cut in half, and the tank platoons were reduced to three tanks each.  This was done so D Company, which abandoned their tanks after a bridge was destroyed, would have tanks.
    Over the next several months, the battalion fought battle after battle with tanks that were not designed for jungle warfare. 
The tank battalions, on January 28th, were given the job of protecting the beaches.  The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast.  It is known that Willie was wounded at some point, but the exact date is not known.
    One night, while on beach duty, the Japanese attempted to land troops on the beach guarded by B Company.  The company and the Japanese
got into a tremendous fire fight.  When morning came, not one Japanese soldier had been landed on the beach.  The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting other landings.

    B Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line.  The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket.  Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket.
    To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used.  The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank.  As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole.  Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.
    The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole.  The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way down into the foxhole.  The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.
    The company also took part in the Battle of the Points on the west coast of Bataan.  The Japanese landed troops but ended up trapped.  One was the Lapay-Longoskawayan points from January 23rd to 29th, the Quinawan-Aglaloma points from 22 January to February 8th, and the Sililam-Anyasan points from January 27th to February 13th.  The defenders successfully eliminated the points.

    On April 9, 1942, the order crash was given and the tankers circled their tanks.  Each tank fired one round into the engine of the tank in front of it.  The tankers then opened the gasoline cocks, allowed the compartments to fill with gas before dropping hand grenades into the tanks.

    Willie and the other members of his platoon made their way to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.  It was from this barrio that they started what became known as the "death march". 

    During the march the Prisoners of War received little water and no food for days.  They made their way north to San Fernando, where they were packed into small wooden boxcars that were used to haul sugarcane.  Each car could hold eight horses of forty men, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each boxcar and closed the doors.  When the train arrived at Capas, the men who had died fell to the ground as the living climbed out of the cars.  From Capas, Willie walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.

   Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army Base that the Japanese put it into use as a POW camp.  There was one water spigot for 12,000 POWs, and men died while waiting for a drink.  Without medicine the death rate in the camp was as high as fifty men a day and reached the point that the Japanese acknowledged they had to do something to lower the death rate.

    In May, the Japanese opened a new camp at Cabanatuan in an attempt to lower the number of deaths.  Willie was sent to this camp and remained there until he was selected to go out on a work detail to Davao, Mindanao. 

    The POWs boarded onto the Interisland Steamer, on July 1, 1942, at Manila and were taken to Davao and arrived there on July 6th.  The camp was about 36 miles from Davao City.

    At the camp, the POWs were housed in eight barracks that were about 148 feet long and about 16 feet wide.  A four foot wide aisle ran down the center of each barracks.  In each barracks there were eighteen bays and twelve POWs shared a bay to sleep.  216 POWs lived in each barracks.  Four cages were later put in a bay for the POWs to sleep in at night.  Each cage held two POWs.
    The camp discipline was poor.  The American commanding officer changed frequently, and the junior officers refused to take orders from the senior hours.  Soon, this trickled down to the enlisted men who began speaking anyway they wanted to the officers.  The situation improved because the majority of POWs realized that the only way they would survive was to be disciplined. 

    At first, the work details were not guarded.  The POWs plowed, planted, and harvested the crops.  The sick POWs made baskets.  In April 1943, the POWs working conditions varied.  Those working the rice fields received the worst treatment.  They were beaten for not meeting quotas, misunderstandings between the POWs and guards, and a translator who could not be trusted to tell the truth.

    During his time at Davao, Willie built runways and worked on a farm.  When it became apparent to the Japanese that American forces were approaching the Philippines, they began to transfer the POWs back to Manila.  On June 6, 1944, the Japanese sent the POWs to Lasang, Mindano, by truck.  Once there, the POWs were boarded onto the Yashu Maru and held in the ship's front holds for six days before it sailed.  The ship sailed on the 12th and dropped anchor off Zamboanga, Mindano. for two days before sailing for Cebu City arriving on June 17th.  The POWs were taken off the ship and held in a warehouse.  The POWs were returned to the dock and boarded an unnamed ship and arrived at Manila on June 25th.

    Willie was returned to Cabanatuan until he was selected to shipment of Japan.  Only those POWs considered too ill to be sent to Japan would remain in the Philippines.

    Willie and other prisoners boarded trucks and taken to the Port Area of Manila.  His group was scheduled to sail on the Hokusen Maru, but since all the POWs had not arrived at the pier and the ship was ready to sail, the POWs from another detachment, which had completely arrived, were boarded in the ship so it could sail.

    Willie's detachment of POWs were boarded onto the Arisan Maru on October 11th.  The ship sailed but instead of heading to Japan, it headed south to Palawan Island.  In a cove off the island, the ship hid from American planes.  During this time, the ship was attacked by at least once by American planes.

    The POWs in the hold discovered that the Japanese had removed the lights from the hold, but that they had not turned off the power.  Some of the prisoners hot-wired the ventilation system into the lighting system.  For several days the POWs had fresh air, until the Japanese discovered what had been done and turned off the power.

    The situation in the hold grew worse and the POWs began to develop heat blisters.  A few days later, the Japanese realized that unless they did something many of the POWs would die.  To solve the problem, the Japanese transferred POWs into the ship's number two hold.  During the transfer one POW attempted to escape and was shot.

    On October 20th, the ship returned to Manila.  The next day, October 21, 1944, the Arisan Maru sailed for Takao, Formosa, as part of a twelve ship convoy.  The evening of October 24th, the ship was in the Bashi Channel of the South China Sea and POWs were on deck preparing dinner.  Suddenly, alarms and sirens were sounded, and the Japanese on deck ran toward the bow of the ship and watched a torpedo pass in front of it.  Moments later the Japanese ran to the stern of the ship as another torpedo missed the ship.  In the holds, the POWs cheered.

    The ship shook and came to a dead stop in the water.  It had been hit by two torpedoes amidships killing some of the POWs.  The Japanese guards began to hit the POWs with the butts of their guns to drive them into the holds.  The POWs dove into the ship's holds, and the Japanese put the hatch covers on but did not tie them down.  A short time later, the Japanese abandoned ship.  Before they left, they cut the rope ladders hanging down into the holds.

    Since the hatch covers had not been tied down, some of the POWs in the first hold made their way back on deck and reattached and dropped rope ladders to the men in the holds.  The surviving POWs made their way onto the deck.  On the ship's deck an American major spoke to the POWs, he said, "Boys, we're in a hellva a jam - but we've been in jams before.  Remember just one thing: We're American soldiers.  Let's play it that way to the very end of the script."  Right after he spoke, a chaplain said to them, "Oh Lord, if it be thy will to take us now, give us the strength to be men." 
    For the next two hours, the ship remained afloat.   The POWs who could not swim stuffed themselves with food from the ship's kitchen.  Others attempted to find anything that would float.  35 POWs swam to another Japanese ship, but they were pushed away with poles and hit with clubs.

    As the ship sank lower in the water, many POWs tried to escape, and at some point the ship split in two.  Three POWs found a lifeboat that had been abandoned by the Japanese.  Since it had no oars, they could not maneuver it.

    A Japanese destroyer came near to the boat and looked like it was about to open fire on it.  The POWs played dead and at the last second the ship turned away.  The men in the boats listened to the cries for help.  As time went on, there were fewer cries until there was silence.  The next morning two more POWs, who were floating on some wreckage, made it to the boat.

    Of the nearly 1800 men who boarded the Arisan Maru, only nine survived the its sinking.  Eight of these men survived the war.  1st Lt. Willie S. Heard was not one of them.

    Since he was lost at sea, 1st Lt. Willie S. Heard Jr.'s name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside Manila.  His parents also had a headstone placed in Hasley Cemetery in West Monroe, Louisiana, in his memory.

    It should be mentioned that 1st Lt. Willie S. Heard's brother, Lt. (jg) Travis H. Heard, a Naval pilot, also reported Missing in Action on July 4, 1943, near Guadalcanal, and was later declared dead.  1st Lt. Willie Heard's name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery at Manila.


 

 

 

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