Pvt. Edward F. Martel was the son of William & Bina Martel. He was born on February 2, 1919, and grew up at 87 Mall Street in Lynn, Massachusetts. Ed attended St. Jean Baptist Catholic School and Breed Junior High School. He attended high school but left during his junior year.
In 1936, Ed joined the Massachusetts National Guard. He was a member of the 101st Engineer Battalion for one year. In 1937, Ed transferred into the regular army and was assigned to the 66th Infantry. This unit trained in light tanks and Ed trained as a tank driver. During this time, Ed was stationed at Fort Devens in Ayer, Massachusetts.
In 1939, Ed was reassigned to Ft. Benning, Georgia. There he trained in medium tanks. The unit he was in was reassigned to Camp Polk, Louisana in 1941. During this time Ed rose in rank from private to sergeant.
In the fall of 1941, after taking part in maneuvers in Louisiana, the 192nd Tank Battalion received orders to be sent overseas. Those National Guardsmen 29 years old or older were allowed to resign from federal duty. After this had been done, replacements were sought to fill out the battalion's roster.
Although volunteering to join the 192nd meant that Ed would lose his rank and be busted to private, Ed volunteered to be transferred to the 192nd. He did this so that he had the opportunity to go overseas.
Once Ed became a member of the 192nd, he was assigned to C Company as a tank driver. Ed became a member of the tank crew of Sgt. Kenneth Thompson. He and the other members of his new company were sent to San Francisco by train and ferried to Angel Island. They were given physicals and boarded a transport for the Philippine Islands.
On November 22, 1941, Ed arrived in the Philippines. His battalion was rushed to Clark Airfield, where they were housed in tents along the main road between the airfield and Ft. Stotsenburg.
The morning of December 8, 1941, Ed and the other men heard the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. They were ordered to move their tanks to the perimeter of the airfield to prevent the Japanese from using paratroopers. That morning, every available American plane was in the air to prevent another Pearl Harbor.
Around noon every American plane landed and their pilots went to lunch. Around 12:45, the tankers were having lunch when they saw formations of planes approaching the airfield. At first they believed that the planes were American, it was only when they heard the sound of bombs falling that they knew the planes were Japanese. The attack literally wiped out the American Army Air Corps.
After the attack, Ed saw the carnage from the attack. His unit remained on alert around Clark Field. On December 15th, they received orders to move out. On December 21st, the Japanese began landing troops at Lingayen Gulf, C Company was ordered north in support of B Company. Ed recalled that the tanks dodged Japanese bombers at their trek north.
Arriving in the foothills just north and west of Bagio, Ed witnessed the destruction of the 26th U. S. Cavalry. The tankers drove passed carcasses of dead horses. As they passed, they also saw the bodies of the dead Filipino Scouts who had rode the horses.
When the tanks reached Lingayen Gulf, Ed recalled looking out onto the water and seeing more ships than he could have ever imagined. The tankers realized that there was no possible way to stop the Japanese on the beaches, so they made an orderly retreat toward Manila.
On December 24th, Manila was just about occupied so Ed's company joined the other American units in the trip around Manila Bay toward the Bataan Peninsula. Ed recalled that his tank had as many as fifteen Filipino soldiers hanging onto it hitching rides. As Ed and the other members of Company C received withdrew toward Bataan, they received orders to go to kilometer post 101 on the west coast of Bataan. This order placed the company about 40 miles north of Mariveles. Their orders were to prevent the Japanese from landing troops behind the main defensive battle line.
It was while on this duty that Ed took part in what became known as "The Battle of the Pockets". At night, the Japanese landed Marines behind the main line of defense. Their plan was for the Marines to fight their way north toward the main battle line. Instead, the Japanese were cut off from reinforcements.
A few nights later, in an attempt to reinforce the first group of Marines, the Japanese landed Marines a second time. Since this second group of Japanese Marines was landed in the wrong place, a second pocket was created. In attempt to wipe out these pockets, C Company tanks with tanks from B Company were sent to the pockets. The Japanese had dug themselves in and were almost impossible to flush out. Lt. John Hay ,of C Company, came up with the idea of driving the tanks over the Japanese foxholes. On the back of each tank, were soldiers with a bag of hand grenades. Since the Japanese dove back into their foxholes when the tanks approached, the soldiers sitting on the tanks dropped grenades into the Japanese foxholes as the tanks drove over them. This tactic wiped out the two pockets.
Ed also recalled that during this operation, that one of the tanks of C Company was knocked out when a magnetic mine was attached to it. The crew was trapped inside the tank. When they did not surrender, the Japanese filled the tank with dirt through the viewing ports suffocating the crew. Since the tank could be used for spear parts for the other tanks, the tankers had to recover it. Ed remembered that those tankers attempting to recover the tank came under sniper fire. The sniper fire resulted in the death of at least one member of B Company.
Word came down to Ed and the rest of C Company of the surrender. They were given instructions to destroy their tanks when they heard the order "crash". When the order was given, most of the tanks were destroyed.
On April 9, 1942, Bataan was officially surrendered to the Japanese. Ed was now a Prisoner of War. After receiving orders from the Japanese to move to Mariveles, and the rest of C Company were allowed to ride trucks to the barrio.
In Mariveles, Ed and his company lined up in a field facing Corregidor. As they stood there, the Japanese searched them for what they called contraband. This included guns, knives, jewelry, other valuables, money, watches, and whatever else that the Japanese wanted to take.
Ed and the other men were organized into groups of 100 POWs. Japanese officers walked among the prisoners looking for Filipinos. The officers pulled the Filipinos out of the group and shot them in their temples. After they fell to the ground, the Japanese kicked their bodies into the ditches alongside the road.
From Mariveles, Ed made his way to San Fernando. There, Ed and the other POWs were packed into boxcars used to haul sugarcane. The prisoners rode the train to Capas where they climbed out of the boxcars and walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Ed recalled that by the time he and the other men reached Camp O'Donnell, that they were sick. At least half of the POWs had yellow jaundice, malaria, beriberi, scurvy, Dengue fever and dysentery. The situation there was so bad that he volunteered to go out on a work detail. The detail Ed was put on was to collect scrap-metal that would be sent to Japan. He estimated that there were as many as 150 POWs on the detail. The POWs were driven in trucks to a Catholic girls' school and put up in a dormitory at San Fernando. The prisoners were then taken to Bataan where they towed vehicles to the Sam Miguel Brewery outside of Manila and back to San Fernando.
In September, the detail ended and Ed was sent to Cabanatuan #3. This camp was opened because of the conditions at Camp O'Donnell. He remained in the camp for one year. During this time he was often so sick that he came close to dying.
Cabanatuan had a camp farm that the POWs worked. The POWs grew the food and the Japanese ate it leaving the greenery for the prisoners. Ed worked on the farm and felt that farming was not hard. What made it hard was the Japanese guards. There was one Japanese sergeant who carried a club. This sergeant liked to hit the POWs with the club. Any prisoner who he believed was not working hard enough got knocked over with it.
Ed stated that he and the other prisoners knew how the war was going from POWs coming in from work details. The Filipino people would tell these men the news from that they heard from American radio broadcasts, and the POWs would share it with the men in the camp.
In July of 1944, Ed was selected for transport to Japan. He was taken to Bilibid Prison and stayed there for two weeks before being taken to the Port Area of Manila and boarded onto the Canadian Inventor. As the POWs were boarding the ship Ed and other men witnessed a commercial Japanese shop blow up in the harbor. They were delighted. The ship sailed for Japan on July 4th. During the trip, the ship stopped and Takao and Keelung on Formosa. It next sailed for Okinawa and docked at Naha. The ship finally arrived at Moji on September 1st
After arriving in Japan, Ed was sent to Fukuoka #17 to work in a coal mine. In his opinion, he and other prisoners were "Rip Van Wrinkles" because they had no news of how the war was going. One of the few times they received news was when one of the Japanese guards told them that they were "chesa" or "small" while the new Americans were "oke" or "big". They were delighted to hear this because this meant that the American forces were close.
Sometime around August 15, 1945, the guards left the camp. Some of the able bodied POWs took off for Prince Kanoe Airport. Ed and the other weaker POWs remained in the camp receiving food by air drops made by B-52 bombers.
Ed and the other POWs were later trucked to Nagasaki and taken aboard a hospital ship. From there, Ed got a ride on an aircraft carrier to Guam and back to the Philippines. He stayed in the Philippines for four weeks eating and receiving medication.
When Ed was declared healthy, he was put on a liberty ship and returned to the United States. He took a train to Ft. Devens, Massachusetts and with a 104 day recuperation leave. Ed reenlisted and received an additional 90 day reenlistment leave.
In September 1945, Ed reported for active duty, this time as a member of the Army Air Corps. He remained in the military and completed 24 years of active duty. He retired as a staff sergeant at age 62 in March 1981. After his retirement Ed lived in North Chicago, Illinois. He currently resides in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
As Ed looked back on his life, he was amazed that he had lived so many years beyond the experiences of a 23 year old who had lived the life of a Japanese POW.
Credit: Jim Opolony: 192nd & 194th Tank Battalion
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