Pvt. William F. Oldaker was
born December 26, 1913, in El Reno, Oklahoma, to
Eliza M. and Archie B. Oldaker. He was one
of five children and had two sisters and two
brothers. He grew up in Estella, a small
rural town about five miles from Vinita,
Oklahoma. There, he attended the Rock School
and completed the sixth grade. He was known
as "Bill" to his family and friends.
On March 27, 1941, Bill was
inducted into Federal Service at Fort Still,
Oklahoma. Sometime after his induction and
trained at Ft. Knox, Kentucky. In the
late summer of 1941, he traveled to Camp Polk,
Louisiana, there he was assigned to the 753rd Tank
Battalion. Although the maneuvers were
taking place there, the 753rd did not take part in
After the maneuvers, the army
began to recruit soldiers to replace members of
the 192nd Tank Battalion who had been released
from federal service. It was at this time
that Bill joined the 192nd and became a member of
B Company as a half-track driver.
From Camp Polk, the
battalion traveled west over four
different train routes. Arriving
in San Francisco, the soldiers were
ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel
Island. On the island, the
soldiers were given physicals and
inoculated for tropical diseases.
Those with health issues were released
from service and replaced.
sailed, on the U.S.A.T. Hugh L.
Scott, from San Francisco on
Monday, October 27th for Hawaii as
part of a three ship convoy.
They arrived in Hawaii on Sunday,
November 2nd, and had a layover.
The soldiers received passes and
allowed to explore the islands.
They sailed again on Tuesday, November
4th, for Guam. When the ships
arrived at Guam, they took on bananas,
vegetables, coconuts, and water.
The soldiers remained on ship since
the convoy was sailing the next day.
About 8:00 in the morning on November
20th, the ships arrived at Manila
Bay. After arriving at Manila,
it was three or four hours before they
disembarked. Most of the
battalion boarded trucks and rode to
Ft. Stotsenburg north of Manila.
At the fort, the
tankers were met by General Edward
King. King welcomed them and
made sure that they had what they
needed. He also was apologetic
that there were no barracks for the
tankers and that they had to love in
tents. The fact was he had not
learned of their arrival until days
before they arrived.
For the next
seventeen days the tankers spent much
of their time removing cosmoline from
their weapons. They also spent a
large amount of time loading
ammunition belts. The plan was
for them, with the 194th Tank
Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.
On December 1st,
the tanks were ordered to the
perimeter of Clark Field to guard
against paratroopers. Each tank
had been assigned a position to
defend. At all times, two crew
members remained in the tanks.
The morning of December 8th, the officers
of the battalions met and were informed of
the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours
earlier. The tankers returned to the
perimeter of Clark Airfield.
All morning long, the
sky was filled with American planes.
At noon, all the planes landed and the
pilots went to lunch. At 12:45
planes approached the airfield from the
north. The tankers on duty at the
airfield counted 54 planes. When
bombs began exploding, the men knew the
planes were Japanese. After the
attack the 192nd remained at Ft.
Stotsenburg for almost two weeks.
that it was to
B and C
ran low on
enough for one
to support the
to a platoon
of B Company
His half track
23rd and 24th,
was in the
going to use
to cross the
Agno River was
made an end
run to get
As they did
this, they ran
early in the
crossed at the
river in the
tanks of the
bank of the
from Carmen to
the tanks of
line on the
tanks held the
5:30 in the
were fell back
were at San
they were able
After the tanks crossed the
river, they went up the other
slope on the other side.
Bill's half-track was the last
vehicle in the column and could
not get up the slope. He
and Sgt. Bashleben continued to
attempt to get up the slope, but the front wheels would not go over the river bank.
As the Japanese closed in on
their position and the tanks got
further away. Sgt. Bud
Bardowski noticed that the
half-track was missing and
turned his tank around.
When he found Bill and Sgt.
Bashleben, their half-track was
still stuck on the riverbank.
Sgt. Bardowski threw them a
towline and pulled the
half-track up the slope with his
tank. In all likelihood,
he had saved the lives of the
two men since the Japanese
overran the area.
During the withdraw into the
peninsula, the company crossed over the last
bridge which was mined and about to be
blown. The 192nd held its position so that
the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it
and then cover the 192nd's withdraw. The 192nd
was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
On one occasion, Bill and Sgt.
Bashleben were driving down a
road when shells began landing
around them. One shell
landed to the side of their
half-track in an area where an
American unit was
bivouacked. Sixteen men
died in the explosion. On
a different occasion, Bill
witnessed a Japanese shell hit a
school bus loaded with Filipino
The tankers were at Santo Tomas near
and at San
unaware of the
they came from
Because of the
Due to the
efforts of the
attack by the
2nd to 4th,
the 192nd held
the road open
During the withdraw into Bataan, Bill
with a platoon
of B Company
tanks near a
picked a grove
of trees to
hide in for
must have seen
what they were
Bill and Sgt.
jumped out of
the half track
and laid down
on the sloped
bank of the
and in the
When the barrage ended, the two
men found that they were soaking
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. The Japanese later admitted
that the tanks guarding the beaches
prevented them from attempting 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.
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
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.
On April 9, 1942,
Bill became a Prisoner Of War.
Being that Sgt. Bashleben had been
sent to the front without him, Bill
with the other members of B Company
made their way to Mariveles.
It was from there that Bill began
what became known as the death
that the worse part of the march was
the lack of water and food.
The sun beating down on the
prisoners who were weak and often
sick made the situation worse.
Bill recalled that many soldiers
died because they had dysentery and
malaria. Others were bayoneted
because they tried to take drinks
from the artesian wells along the
road. He also witnessed the
Japanese soldiers kill Filipino
children who gave food and water to
that one Filipino boy ran alongside
their group and hid in the jungle
when the guards got close. The
boy gave water to the POWs as they
walked. Bill believed the boy
was a "guardian angel" sent by
God. He believed this because
the boy was never caught by the
Japanese. The rest of his
life, Bill wondered what happened to
the boy who had risked his life to
show kindness to him and other POWs.
At San Fernando,
Bill and the other prisoners boarded
boxcars. They were packed in
so tight that those who died
remained standing. He
disembarked at Capas and walked the
last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Bill was later
sent to Cabanatuan when the new camp
opened to relieve the conditions at
Camp O'Donnell. He remained
there until he was went out on a
work detail. The only thing
known about the detail is that it is
referred to in reports as the "AV.
While on the
detail, Bill sprained his ankle and
was sent to the hospital ward at
Bilibid on January 5, 1944, and
discharged on January 18th.
After returning to the detail, he
came down with dengue fever and
returned to Bilibid Prison and
admitted to the hospital ward on
February 8th and discharged on
February 13th. On March 2nd,
he was admitted again. He was
discharged but readmitted on April
18th suffering from malaria and
benign Tatiana. He was
discharged on April 22nd and sent
back to the airfield to work.
Bill was picked
for transport to Japan and put into
the hold of a Nissyo Maru on
July 15th. The ship sailed on
July 17, 1944. The POWs were
packed into the holds so tight that
when someone died, the other
prisoners would pass the body above
their heads. They then stacked
the bodies in the corner until they
were lifted from the hold and thrown
into the sea.
Bill was afraid
to go to sleep out of fear of being
attacked by other prisoners. He
recalled that there were prisoners
so desperate that they drank their
own urine. Although he was
desperate for water, Bill could
never get himself to drink urine.
The convoy his
ship was in was composed of six
ships. Two of the ships were
sunk by American submarines.
The Americans had no idea that the
ships were carrying POWs. The
ship arrived at Takao,
Formosa. It is not known when
the ship arrived, but it remained at
Takao until July 27th. The
next day, the ship sailed from
Formosa for Moji, Japan and arrived
there on August 3rd.
Japan, Bill was sent to Narumi
Camp in the Osaka area on
August 4, 1944. The POWs in the camp
were used as slave labor for the
Daido Electric Steel Company and
manufactured wheels for Nippon Wheel
Manufacturing Company. The
POWs did manual labor. Those could
operate lathes or milling machines
were given jobs using those skills.
At the camp, the
POWs were housed in barracks that
were 25 feet wide by 140 feet
long. Each prisoner had a
sleeping space of six feet.
The POW food varied and sometime was
hulled rice, hulled wheat, and
To get to the plant, the POWs had to
ride a train with the Japanese
civilians. The civilians would
throw their cigarette butts on the
floor of the train cars. The
Americans who got on the trains
first were able to collect the
It was also at
this camp that the POWs witnessed a
prisoner put to death for
stealing. One night, the man
crawled into the camp kitchen to
steal food. For whatever
reason, the man did not get
out. Realizing he would be
caught, he attempted to kill
himself. The Japanese allowed
the man to heal and then made him
stand naked in front of the other
POWs. The Japanese then
proceeded to starve the man to
In the little
free time that the POWs had, they
would sit around and talk about food
and the meals they would have when
they got home. The prisoners
would actually feel as if they had
eaten after each of these sessions.
As the war went
on, American bombs fell around the
camp. The POWs saw craters on
both sides of the camp from raids to
knock out the train station.
As they went to work, the POWs
counted the bomb craters.
One night, the
bombers destroyed the factory that
the POWs worked in. No
prisoners were killed because the
attack came at night. It was
not too long after this that the
POWs heard that they were going to
be moved to another camp.
One day, the POWs heard that the
emperor was going to speak to
his people over
loudspeakers. Through the
interpreter, the POWs learned of
the surrender. when he told them
your country and mine we
are now friends."
The camp was turned over to the
POWs and the guards
vanished. The guards left
behind their weapons so the POWs
posted guards to protect
themselves against any possible
attack. The POWs also
marked the camp so that it could
be spotted by American
planes. The B-29s began
dropping fifty gallon barrels of
supplies to the former prisoners
on September 2, 1945.
experience for the former prisoners
was the fact the Japanese now
insisted on bowing to them. It
also seemed a little strange to them
that the Japanese brought all the
food dropped by the B-29s to them
without taking anything for
themselves. This was strange
to the men, because they knew that
the Japanese civilians did not have
much more to eat than the former
entered the camp on September
4th. On September 12th, the
former POWs received orders to move
south. They boarded trains and
went to southern Japan. There
they boarded the USS Rescue
for medical treatment.
Bill and the
other men were returned to the
Philippines to be fattened up.
He sailed for the United States on
September 24, 1945, on the U.S.S.
Gosper, arriving at Seattle,
Washington, on October 12,
1945. He was treated at Ft.
Madigan Hospital in Washington state
and returned home to Oklahoma.
He was discharged, from the Army, on
February 23, 1946..
After the war,
Bill married. He and his wife,
Pauline, were the parents of two
children, Bill and Linda. To
support his family, he first worked
as an automobile mechanic, but later
took correspondence classes and
became a electrician.
Oldaker, passed away on August 23,
2001. He was buried at Timpson