1st Lt. William Lucas Cockrum
is known about 1st Lt. William L. Cockrum is that he was born on October
25, 1910, and was the youngest of two sons of William Monroe
Cockrum & Mary Jackson-Cockrum. As a child, he lived in Brown,
Arkansas. He was called up to active duty on July 5, 1941, and was assigned to C Company,
194th Tank Battalion as a commander of a tank
platoon at Fort Lewis, Washington.
William lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field on December 8, 1941. After the attack he spent the next four months fighting the Japanese. On April 9, 1942, he became a Prisoner of War when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese. According to the personnel roster of the 194th Tank Battalion and the personnel roster for the 192nd Tank Battalion, William Cockrum was reassigned to C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion, during the Battle of Bataan.
William took part in the death march from Mariveles to San Fernando. There, he and the other POWs were boarded into boxcars and road to Capas. From Capas, the POWs walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Sometime during William's imprisonment, he was sent to Bilibid Prison near Manila. How long he was there is not known. In early December, the Japanese ordered the American medical staff at the prison to put together a list of POWs healthy enough to be sent to Japan..
The morning of December 12, 1944, roll was taken and the names of the men selected were read to the POWs. William's name was called. That evening the POWs were allowed to say goodbye to their friends. At 4 a.m., the POWs were woke and fed breakfast. 1,619 POWs were marched to Manila's Pier 7.
As the POWs stood on the dock, Japanese women and children were boarded onto the ship. In addition, Japanese seamen who had survived the sinking of their ships were boarded. It was not until that evening that POWs were boarded onto the Oryoku Maru. The ship was part of MATA-37 convoy.
The convoy sailed for Takao, Formosa after the POWs were boarded. William and the other POWs were packed so tightly in the hold that they had a difficult time getting sleep. The morning of December 14th the convoy was off the coast of Luzon in Subic Bay. The POWs were receiving breakfast when the sound of planes approaching could be heard. These fighter bombers were planes from the U.S.S. Hornet
The POWs on deck heard the change in the sound of the planes engines which indicated that the planes were diving on the ships. Bombs began exploding around the ships. Bullets also began hitting a the ship as the POWs on deck scrambled down the ladders. The POWs in the hold had no way to protect themselves so they huddled together while dust and rust chips fell down on them.
During the day, the Oryoku Maru and the other ships were attacked a total of seventeen times. Six bombs from the planes hit the Oryoku Maru during the attacks. One is known to have hit the right side of hold number one. How many prisoners died is not known. It is not known if William was killed in the attacks.
That night the surviving POWs could hear the sounds of lifeboats being lowered. In the boats, were the women and children that they saw boarding the ship in Manila.
The next morning the attacks continued. A Japanese guard appeared at the hatches and told the POWs that they should abandon ship. He also told them the wounded should be the first off the ship. As the POWs swam toward shore, they were shot at by Japanese machine guns.
1st Lt. William L. Cockrum and the other POWs were rounded up on tennis courts near the Olongapo Naval Station. From there, surviving prisoners were taken to San Fernando, Pampanga. There, they were held in a jail and a movie theater. The Japanese asked if any of the POWs could not continue the trip. Fifteen men stated that they were too ill to go on to San Fernando. The Japanese loaded these POWs onto a truck and took them up into the mountains. They were never seen again.
On December 24th, the remaining POWs were loaded onto trains and sent to San Fernando, La Union. Most of the POWs were boarded onto a second ship the Enoura Maru. The ship sailed for Formosa and arrived safely. The POWs were kept in the ship's holds as it sat in the harbor.
On January 6, 1945, the harbor was strafed and bombed by American planes. During the attack the Enoura Maru was hit several times by bombs. One bomb came through the hatch of the hold and exploded inside of it. This explosion resulted in the death of many of the POWs, while many others were wounded.
William was one of the POWs who was wounded. He was taken from the ship and put on a third hell ship the Brazil Maru. This final ship made it to Moji, Japan safely. Because of his wounds, William was taken to the hospital in Moji. According to available information, his legs were paralyzed.
On February 3, 1945, 1st Lt. William L. Cockrum died from his wounds at the hospital in Moji. After the war in October 1948, the remains of 1st Lt. William L. Cockrum were returned to the United States. He was buried at Corning Cemetery, Section 6, in Corning, Arkansas.