Capt. Harold Walden Collins
Capt. Harold Walden Collins was born on April 24, 1915. He was the
son of Charles R. Collins and Elizabeth Burget-Collins. With his two sisters and two
brothers, he grew up in Lacarne,
Ohio. Until the eleventh grade, he went to school in both Erie and Lacarne,
He then transferred to Port Clinton High School and was a graduate of
the class of 1934.
After high school, Harold attended the University of Toledo but left after two years. He also married Gertrude Thompson and became the father of a daughter, Carolyn.
In either 1939 or 1940, with his brother-in-law, Kenneth Thompson, and his friends, Steve Eliyas, Arthur Burholt and Joseph Hrupcho, he joined the Ohio National Guard's tank company headquartered in the armory in Port Clinton.
In the fall of 1940, Harold's tank company received the news that they were going to be called to federal service for a period of one year. In November, the 39 members of the company traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky were with National Guard companies from Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin, they became the 192nd Tank Battalion. The Ohio tank company became C Company of the battalion.
Harold arrived at Ft. Knox as a private, but quickly rose in rank. When Headquarters Company was created in January, 1941, Harold was commissioned a second lieutenant.
After almost nine months of training, the 192nd was sent on maneuvers in Louisiana. It was after the maneuvers that the members of Harold's company learned they were not being released from federal service but sent overseas.
From Angel Island in San Francisco Bay, the 192nd left the United States for the Philippine Islands. Arriving in Manila on Thanksgiving Day, Harold and the rest of the battalion were rushed to Fort Stotsenburg. Since their barracks were not finished, they lived in tents between the fort and Clark Airfield.
On December 8, 1941, having heard the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the tanks were positioned around the perimeter of Clark Field to prevent the Japanese from using paratroopers. Around 12:45 in the afternoon, Harold and the rest of C Company lived through the attack on Clark Field.
On December 9th, C Company was ordered to the area of Mount Arayat. Reports had been received that the Japanese had landed paratroopers in the area. No paratroopers were found, but it was possible that the pilots of damaged Japanese planes may have jumped from them.
After the Japanese landed troops at Lingayen Gulf, Harold, who recently had assumed command of a platoon of C Company tanks, was sent north with his tanks in support of B Company. It was outside of Demoritis, La Union, that Harold would earn the Silver Star. In spite of Japanese resistance, his platoon of tanks was able to reach the 26th U.S. Cavalry and engaged the Japanese which allowed the 26th to disengage and withdraw from the area.
For the next four months, Harold was involved in the battle to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippines. It was during this time, that he was promoted to captain. On April 9, 1942, Harold and the rest of C Company became Prisoners Of War.
Harold took part in the death march. Since the Japanese dispersed the members of the company among the other prisoners, it is not known if he was with other members of the the 192nd. The POWs made their way to San Fernando. Once there, they were put into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane. Each car could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese packed 100 POWs into each car. Those who died remained standing until the living left the cars at Capas.
As a POW, Harold was held at Camp O'Donnell. When Cabanatuan opened, he was transferred there. During July 1942, Harold was sent to the barrio known to the Americans as Little Bagio. He was sent there to represent the enlisted men when dealing with the Japanese. Being an officer, Harold was not required to do physical labor.
When the detail ended. Harold was returned to Cabanatuan. It is not known if he went out on another work detail. What is known is that while a POW there, he and Capt Arthur Burholt organized shows for the other prisoners as a way to break the monotony of camp life.
During Harold's time at Cabanatuan, his family received a post card from him. In it he said, "I am waiting impatiently to be back home with you again. Say hello and give my love to all the folks. Buy Carol Lee (his daughter) a new dress and give her a kiss for me. Hoping to see you soon."
Sometime later, Harold was sent to Bilibid Prison. This former Spanish prison was used by the Japanese as a clearinghouse for POWs being sent to another part of the Japanese Empire. At the prison, Harold was reunited with other C Company members. Life for the men was monotonous since the prison was surrounded by high walls.
In December, 1944, Harold and other POWs were boarded onto the Oryoku Maru. The ship sailed from Manila but came under attack of American Naval planes off the coast of Luzon. The pilots had no idea that the ship was carrying POWs.
When the pilots of the planes saw men climbing from the ship's hold, they realized it was a prison ship and stopped the attack. For many of the POWs, this realization came too late. According to another survivor of the ship, after the attack, Harold helped other POWs who could not swim make it to shore near Olonga. He then swam back to the ship to do the same thing again for other survivors. Once ashore, the prisoners were gathered on tennis courts at a golf club.
While waiting at the tennis courts, the Japanese asked if any of the POWs believed they were too sick to make the trip to Japan. Fifteen POWs said that they could not make the trip. These men were put on a truck and taken into the mountains. None of them were ever seen again.
Harold was transported by train from San Fernando La Union to Manila. There, he was boarded onto the Enoura Maru. The POWs on the ship were held in three different holds.
The ship came under attack while docked at Formosa. During the attack a bomb exploded in one of the holds. Harold suffered wounds to his legs and face. He lost a great deal of blood from the leg wounds which became infected. After the attack, the surviving POWs were transferred to the Brazil Maru.
According to the unknown survivor, Capt. Harold Collins died from his wounds on January 18, 1945. The date of his death is listed as January 20, 1945, in U. S. Army records. After he died, he was stripped of his clothes, and he was taken on deck and thrown overboard.