Pvt. Harley Woodrow Coulter
Pvt. Harley Woodrow Coulter was the son of Mack and Ora Coulter.
He was born on December 23, 1919, in Dover, Tennessee. Harley attended Dover
Schools until the age of sixteen, when he left school and moved from
Dover to Columbus, Georgia.
On April 3, 1939, Harley enlisted in the U. S. Army at Fort Benning, Georgia. There he was assigned to D Company, 66th Infantry, Light Tanks. While training at Ft. Benning, Harley qualified as a truck driver and a tank driver. He was later assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion.
In the late summer of 1941, Harley with the 753rd was sent to Camp Polk in Louisiana. Although at the camp, the 753rd did not take part in the maneuvers. It was after these maneuvers at Camp Polk, that Harley volunteered to join the 192nd Tank Battalion which was preparing for duty overseas. After he volunteered he was assigned to B Company.
Harley and the other members of B Company loaded their tanks and other equipment onto a train and traveled west to California. Arriving in San Francisco, the members of B Company spent a couple of days on the island awaiting the arrival of the other companies of the 192nd.
Sailing on the Hugh L. Scott, the 192nd was given a leave of two days at Honolulu, Hawaii upon arriving there. They would sail for the Philippines under blackout conditions. When a unknown ship was spotted, the escort ships took off after the ship. The ship later was identified as belonging to a neutral country.
Upon arriving in Manila, the members of the 192nd were rushed to Ft. Stotsenburg. There they were assigned to tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.
On December 8, 1941, Harley and the other members of the tank battalion were guarding the perimeter of Clark Field when Japanese planes appeared. At first, the soldiers believed the planes were American. It was only when the bombs began exploding that they knew the planes were Japanese.
For the next four months, Harley worked with Walter Tucker in getting ammunition and food to the tank crews. Although he was not involved in combat, Harley lived through the constant shelling and strafing by Japanese planes.
On April 9, 1942, Harley with the other members of the 192nd became Prisoners Of War. He and the other members of his company made their way to Mariveles where they started what became known as the death march.
Harley did the march with other members of the 192nd. It would take them five days to complete the march. One of the men Harley marched with was Walter Tucker. Like the other prisoners, Harley went without food or water for days. This resulted in men falling out and being killed by the Japanese.
Near the end of the march, Walter Tucker had an attack of malaria. Harley's and Walter's other friends knowing that if he fell out he would be executed, carried Walter to San Fernando. There they were boarded onto a train and shipped to Capas. Disembarking the boxcar, the POWs walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Life in Camp O'Donnell was so bad that men died by the dozens. To get out of the camp, Harley and Walter Tucker volunteered to go out on the work detail recover destroyed vehicles as scrap metal for the Japanese.
The POWs would tie the vehicles together with ropes. Then each man would steer the vehicles as they were towed to San Fernando. From there they were taken to Manila.
When the detail ended, Harley and the other men were sent to Cabanatuan. Harley was selected to go out to build runways on the Las Pins Detail. The POWs worked at an airfield outside of Manila. On September 21, the POWs saw their first American planes in over two years. The planes flew over the airfield and bombed and strafed it. The next day, September 22nd, the detail was ended and the POWs were sent to Bilibid Prison for processing for shipment to Japan.
From Bilibid, Harley was sent to the Port Area of Manila. There he was boarded onto the the Oryoku Maru. The ship sailed for Formosa but off the coast of Luzon came under attack by American fighters. When the pilots saw the large numbers of men abandoning ship they halted the attack. It was then that they realized that they had been attacking a prisoner ship.
Harley and the other survivors of the attack swam to shore. Once on shore, they were held on a tennis court. The Japanese asked the POWs if any of them were too ill to continue the trip. These men were put on a truck and taken into the mountains. They were never seen again.
The remaining POWs were sent by train back to Manila. They were boarded onto another ship, the Enoura Maru. The ship sailed from Manila and arrived at Formosa. While docked in port, the ship came under attack from American fighters. One bomb during the attack exploded in one of the ship's holds killing many POWs and wounding many others.
The surviving prisoners, including Harley, were transferred to a third ship, the Brazil Maru. This ship made the final leg of the voyage safely. On January 29, 1945, the ship arrived at Moji, Japan. It was during the arrival that Pvt. Harley W. Coulter died in the hold of the ship.
The exact cause of Harley's death is unknown. He may have been wounded during aerial attack at Formosa and died of his wounds or, as reported in the battalion report after the war, he may have died of colitis.
It is not known if Harley's body was thrown overboard or if his remains were taken ashore and cremated. After the war, his family had a memorial dedicated to Harley at Ft. Mitchell National Cemetery in Phoenix City, Alabama. He is also memorialized at the American Military Cemetery in Hawaii.