Sgt. Richard L. Errington
Richard L. Errington was born in July 23, 1920, to John Errington &
Jenny Alice Thomas-Errington in Compton, California.
He was the fifth child of the couple's seven children. As a child
he grew up in San Antonio, California and at 213 Maple Street in Salinas. He
was a cattle buyer for his family's meat packing company.
He joined the California National Guard in Salinas with his brother, Joe. He was inducted into the U. S. Army on February 10, 1941. With his tank company he trained at Fort Lewis, Washington.
In September 1941, Richard's tank battalion was ordered to San Francisco. After being inoculated, the battalion sailed for the Philippine Islands. Arriving in the Philippines, the tankers spent their time preparing their equipment for maneuvers.
On December 8, 1941, Richard, and the rest of his company, heard the news that Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor. The tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. All morning the soldiers watched as American planes filled the sky. At 12:30 in the afternoon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45, Japanese planes appeared over the airfield and destroyed the Army Air Corps.
Richard with his battalion were sent south of Manila. After the Japanese landed troops at Lucban, the tanks withdrew slowly toward the Bataan Peninsula. Richard and with his company continued to fight on Bataan with little food, little medicine, and only the hope of help coming from the United States.
On April 9, 1942, Richard became a Prisoner of War. He took part in the death march from Mariveles to San Fernando. During the march, he and the other POWs received little food and almost no water. At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars and rode to Capas. There, the living climbed out of the cars while the bodies of the dead fell to the ground. The POWs then walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training camp. There was only one water spigot for 12,000 POWs. It is known that Rick went out on the bridge building detail to get out of the camp. The POWs on the detail rebuilt the bridges that had been blown up as the Americans and Filipinos withdrew into Bataan.
When the detail ended, Rick was sent to the new POW camp, Cabanatuan. The camp had been opened to relieve the situation that existed at Camp O'Donnell. He was again selected to go out on a work detail. This time he was sent to Las Pinas to build runways at an airfield. On September 21, 1944, the POWs watched as planes approached the airfield. They cheered when the planes began to bomb and strafe the airfield. These were the first American planes that they had seen in two years.
On September 22nd, the detail was ended and Richard was transferred to Bilibid Prison. In early December 1944, the Japanese ordered the medics at Bilibid Prison to compile a list of POWs who were healthy enough to be sent to Japan. On December 12th, the roll was read and the POWs selected said their goodbyes to their friends. At 4:00 AM the next morning they were awakened, fed and march to Manila's Pier 7. They were boarded onto the Oryoku Maru.
After all of the 1617 POWs were boarded, the ship set sail as part of the convoy MATA 37. Meals for the POWs consisted of small amounts of fish, rice and water. Sleep was almost impossible since the men were packed in so tightly that they had difficulty finding a comfortable position.
The morning of December 14th, those POWs selected to give out chow carried buckets of food into the holds and began giving it out. The POWs heard the sound of planes approaching. They could also hear the anti-aircraft guns firing at the planes. When the planes went into their dives, the POWs could hear the change in the sound of the engines. The explosions from bombs exploding around the ship shook the ship. The ship was hit several times. Before sunset, Richard and the other POWs would experience a total of 17 attacks.
That night the POWs could hear the groans of the wounded. The holds began to smell of human waste since the Japanese would not allow the filled buckets to be emptied. The Japanese abandoned the ship leaving the POWs in its holds.
The morning of December 15th, the American planes returned to finish the ship off. This time as the planes strafed the ship and dropped their bombs the anti-aircraft guns remained silent. The Japanese guards still on the ship shouted at the POWs that fifty men at a time would be let out of the holds to swim to shore.
When the pilots of the planes saw the large number of men climbing from the holds, they stopped their attack. The POWs made their way into the water and swam to shore. As they swam, the Japanese fired at them with machine guns. Once on shore, the POWs were herded onto tennis courts. Roll call was taken and it was discovered that only 1,290 POWs, of the 1619 POWs who had boarded the Oryoku Maru were still alive.
Sgt. Richard L. Errington died in the sinking of the Oryoku Maru on December 15, 1944. It is not known if he died onboard ship or in the water while attempting to swim ashore. Since his final resting place is unknown, his name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery at Manila.