1st/Sgt. William Lloyd Swift
1st Sgt. William L. Swift was born in Illinois on
September 8, 1918, and was the son of William &
Leona Swift. At some point, his family moved
to Maywood, Illinois, where he attended local
schools and Proviso Township High School.
William enlisted in the Illinois National Guard and was inducted into the U. S. Army on November 25, 1940. On November 28th, with his tank company, he traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for what was suppose to be a year of training. His tank company was now B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. In January 1941, William was assigned to Headquarters Company when it was created and given the job as the company's supply sergeant.
In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd Tank Battalion took part in maneuvers Louisiana. It was after these maneuvers that the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana. On the side of a hill, the soldiers learned that they were being sent overseas. Those men who were married or too old to go overseas were given the opportunity to be released from federal service.
After the companies were brought up to strength
with replacements for the men released from
federal service, the battalion was equipped with
new tanks and half-tracks. The tanks and
half-tracks were new to the battalion but came
from the 753rd Tank Battalion as did replacements
for men who had left the battalion.
The 192nd was
Hugh L. Scott
as part of a
For many, it
would be the
last time that
ever see the
and had a two
The soldiers were given shore leave so they could see
Guam but took a southerly route away
lanes. During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown
ship, was seen
bow came out
of the water,
and it took
off in the
It turned out
was from a
When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield. Since the company little to do, William and the other men watched as the dead, dying and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks and trucks.
That night, there was one air raid after another. Since they did not have any foxholes, William and the other men used an old latrine pit for cover. Being that it was safer than their tents, he and the other men slept in the pit. The entire night they were bitten by mosquitoes. The next morning the decision was made to move the company into an tree cover area. Without knowing it, he had slept his last night on a cot or bed. From this point on, William slept in a blanket on the ground.
Being first sergeant, it was William's job to make sure that the tankers were supplied with ammunition and gasoline. The members often left these supplies near abandoned schools for the tank crews to find. It is not known how much of these supplies were ever found by tank crews since the Japanese advance was quick.
For William, the coming month was a constant,
slow, falling back toward Bataan Peninsula. During
this time, the soldiers were bombed and
strafed. The morning before the surrender
the Japanese bombed the ammunition dumps which
were close to where HQ Company's kitchen.
That night the sky was lit by the fire burning at
the ammunition dumps.
William and the other POWs were ordered to move to a school yard where they were made to sit in the sun without food or water. They soon realized that behind them were Japanese artillery firing on Corregidor. The American guns on the island began returning fire. Shells from the American guns began landing around the POWs. The men had no place to hide and several were killed. Three of the four Japanese guns were also destroyed.
It was from Mariveles late in the afternoon that William began what would later become known as the Bataan Death March. The first night the POWs were marched all night. The first place that they were allowed to stop was near a Japanese machine-gun nest. Corregidor was shelling the area and several of the shells landed among the POWs killing them. They marched for days and were told there would be food and water at the next stop; but these were lies to keep the prisoners going. During every hour, the POWs received a five minute break. The Japanese would change guards and keep the POWs moving.
What made things worse was as they marched, they came across artesian wells and watering holes, but they were denied their request for water. The Japanese would chase the POWs away from the wells. It got to the point that even though the Japanese attempted to keep the prisoners from the water they still went to the wells. This resulted in the deaths of many men who were bayoneted while getting water.
The lack of food and water caused physical disabilities; such as, the prisoners' mouths swelling and their tongues splitting open. If the prisoners drank the water, they were often killed. At San Fernando the POWs were crowded together in a bull pen. After this was done, the POWs were told to lay down for the night. Since they were packed in so tightly, it was impossible for them to lay down.
At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars known as , "Forty or Eights." Each car could hold eight horses or forty men, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors. Those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the cars at Capas. From there, they walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.
William was held at Camp O'Donnell which was a
death trap. There was only one water spigot
for the entire camp, and the POWs stood in line
for hours for a drink. Since there was no
medicine, disease spread quickly among the POWs
killing many. Those men on burial worked all
day to bury the dead. Each morning when they
returned to the cemetery, the graves either had
been dug up by wild dogs, or the dead were sitting
up in their graves.
After the war, William's remains, and the remains of four other POWs could not be identified. He shares his grave with other unknown POWs from Grave 512, at the American Military Cemetery at Manila in Plot 2, Row 25, Grave 3132. Since his remains were not identified, William is listed on the Tablets of the Missing at the cemetery.
It should be noted that on the day William's family received the news that he had been taken prisoner, his father died of a heart attack. His mother would later reside in Elgin, Illinois.