Pvt. John Dale Minier
Pvt. John D. Minier was born on December 31, 1919, to Joseph E. Minier and Hattie E. Floro-Minier. With his parents, two brothers and three sisters, he resided at 216 Maple Street in Port Clinton, Ohio. In May of 1939, John became a member of the Ohio National Guard tank company in Port Clinton. At that time, he was working in an automobile parts factory.
When his company was federalized in November 1940, it was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky. The company joined by other National Guard companies from Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin to form the 192nd GHQ Light Tank Battalion. At Ft. Knox, he was sent to Armored Forces School and was trained as a tank driver.
In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd Tank Battalion took part in maneuvers in Louisiana. It was after the maneuvers, on the side of a hill, that the battalion members learned they were being sent overseas. John and the other members of the battalion received leaves home to say goodbye to friends and family.
Traveling west by train from Camp Polk, Louisiana, the 192nd was sent to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. C Company departed Angel Island on the ship the Franklin Pierce. The ship made a stop in Hawaii before sailing for the Philippine Islands.
Arriving in Manila on Thanksgiving Day, 1941, the members of the battalion were rushed to Ft. Stotsenburg. There, John and the other men were housed in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield. For the next two weeks, the tankers spent their time readying their equipment for maneuvers.
The morning of December 8, 1941, after hearing the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the tankers were sent to the perimeter of Clark Field. It was 11:45 in the morning when planes appeared over the airfield. When bombs began exploding, the Americans knew the planes were Japanese.
For the next four months, John and the other tankers fought to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippine Islands. During this time, the tankers had few if any breaks from the fighting.
On April 9, 1942, John and the other members of C Company became Prisoners Of War when the defenders of Bataan were surrendered to the Japanese. He and the other members of C Company destroyed their equipment and made their way to Mariveles at the southern tip of the Bataan Peninsula.
It was from Mariveles that John started what became known as the death march. John recalled that some of the POWs actually were nude since they had not been allowed to dress. Those who fell were kicked by the Japanese guards.
John and the other POWs went without food or water. Men prayed for rain so that they could have a drink. When they reached bridges, they were made to do double time over bridges so that the Japanese convoys heading south would not be stopped. He remembered walking past artesian wells without being able to get a drink. At one point, the POWs risked being killed by running to a turnip field. He watched as men were shot. On another occasion, he saw POWs shot attempting to get food in a sugarcane field. John counted the bodies of 370 dead Americans while on the march.
It took 10 days for John to make his way to San Fernando. There, the POWs were kept in a school yard. John was at the front of the column entering the school yard and was able to grab two handfuls of rice from a sack. This was the first food he had during the march.
At San Fernando John and the other POWs were crammed into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane. During the trip, those prisoners who died in the cars remained standing until the cars were emptied at Capas. From there, John walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army training camp. The camp had only one water faucet for 12,000 prisoners. John knew that if he remained in the camp he would die, so he volunteered to go out on a work detail rebuilding bridges. He next volunteered to go out on a scrap metal recovery detail. He remained on this detail until September, 1942, when he was sent to Cabanatuan.
In October of 1942, John was sent to Bilibid Prison for transport. He was boarded onto what became known as a "hell ship". He and the other POWs were taken to Korea. After disembarking the ship, the POWs took a two day train trip north to Mukden, Manchuria.
John was assigned to work in a machine tool and die factory. This factory was run by the Japanese company MKK. John remained in Mukden until the end of the war.
The POWs first knew the war had ended when three parachutists were dropped into the camp. A few days later, Russian troops liberated the camp. The Russians held a official surrender ceremony and made the Japanese surrender in front of the liberated prisoners.
John left Mukden on September 10, 1945 by train. He and the other liberated Americans were boarded onto the hospital ship the U.S.S. Relief.
John arrived in San Francisco on October 15, 1945. It was almost four years to the day that he and the other members of his battalion had departed the city for the Philippines.
John was sent by train to Fletcher General Hospital in Cambridge, Ohio. He was promoted to Staff Sergeant and discharged on May 8, 1946, at Camp Atterbury, Indiana.
John married Irene Kowalezk on October 5, 1946. Irene and John became the parents of two sons, Joe and John.
John D. Minier passed away on October 5, 1988, on Catawba Island Township, Ottawa County, Ohio.